Equal Rights Amendment: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

ERA rally

Getty Members of Congress and representatives of women's groups rally to mark the 40th anniversary of congressional passage of the ERA in 2012.

Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Three-fourths of the states needed to then agree to ratify it as a constitutional amendment, but it failed by a margin of three states and the ERA hasn’t been ratified yet. In 2017,  Nevada became the first state to ratify the ERA in 40 years.  Illinois ratified in 2018, 36 years after the original deadline. Only one state is needed.

The Equal Rights Amendment is designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The Article is Comprised of Three Sections.

Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied
or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate
legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the
date of ratification.

According to EqualRightsAmmendment.org, “In Section 1, the first sentence has been added to include women specifically and equally in the Constitution and to clarify the intent of the amendment to make discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex unconstitutional.”

2. Some States Have Voted to Rescind Ratification.

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Being ladylike does not require silence,” Betty Ford told the audience at the Greater Cleveland Congress of International Women’s Year, and when it came to advocating for women’s rights she was anything but silent. Betty frequently spoke out in support of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. She believed that it would be beneficial to all women and actively lobbied state legislators to vote for it. “I’m in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment not only for equal pay for equal work, but because I feel every woman should have the right to decide the direction of her life,” she told the participants at the Homemaking and Identity Conference at the White House in September 1975. Besides ERA, Betty supported the UN’s International Women’s Year in 1975, which celebrated women’s achievements and promoted equality between women and men. She also strongly encouraged President Ford to appoint women to senior government positions. Although her lobbying resulted in several successes, she later reflected that her big disappointment was the fact he didn’t appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. Betty continued to support ratification of ERA after leaving the White House, and even after the proposal expired in 1982 without being approved by the required number of states, she still championed women’s rights. … 📸 from @FordLibraryMuseum: Betty Ford expressing her support for the Equal Rights Amendment in Hollywood, Florida, 2/25/1975. National Archives Identifier: 5730761. … #BettyFord100 #FirstLadies #Herstory #ArchivesAwesomeWomen #BettyFord #SmartGirls #WomensRights #EqualRightsAmendment #ERA

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In the 1970s, Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho Kentucky, and South Dakota all voted to rescind their ratifications, but the votes are likely legally null.

15 states that did not ratify the Equal Rights Amendment before the 1982 deadline to ratify. Congress can vote to extend that deadline with 38 states on board. With Nevada and Illinois ratifying in 2017 and 2018, respectively, 13 states remain to ratify the amendment:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Virginia, Florida, and Arizona all made unsuccessful efforts to ratify in 2018.

North Dakota made efforts to ratify in February, but The resolution’s chief sponsor, Hampden Republican Rep. Chuck Damschen, said the amendment is no longer necessary.

“I think women are equal under the law,” he said. “And I think they’ve definitely proved on an individual basis they’re equal to anybody,” reports Grand Forks Herald.

3. Some see Ratifying the ERA as Symbolic.

Opponents see the federal, state, and local laws prohibiting sex discrimination in place as outdating the need for ratification.

In the 1970s, “Conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly argued the ERA would erase legal differences between men and women and would lead to an America where men wouldn’t be required to support their wives, anyone could walk into any bathroom, women could be drafted, and same-sex marriage would be legalized,” reports Vox.

Forty years later, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said she “Would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature — I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”

Proponents Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) wrote in a Washington Post op-ed “This is not a partisan issue but one of universal human rights. Gender equality should be an explicit, basic principle of our society.”

4. Arkansas Sen. Joyce Elliott Filed to Ratify

On March 4, 2019, Arkansas Sen. Joyce Elliott filed to ratify the amendment.

“Oftentimes, people will say, ‘What difference does it make?,'” said St. Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock. “It does make a difference in that we know, historically, our Constitution was not written to include women.

This is the third time Elliott has filed the resolution.

5. Bathroom Access and Abortion Rights Keep Being Discussed.

Opponents of the ratification claim “It would make it illegal to separate the sexes in bathrooms, college dormitories or school sports,” The New York Times reports. Equal rights ordinances in North Carolina and Texas have been contested over bathroom access concerns.

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would potentially imply abortion procedure cannot be treated any differently than other medical procedures. New Mexico and Connecticut have established precedents.

This story will be updated.

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