Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) on Jan. 27. The National Woman’s political party first proposed the ERA in 1923 and Congress passed it in 1979. It was designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens, regardless of sex.
The amendment originally had a ratification deadline of 1979, but Congress changed it to 1982 because of the March for the ERA, where protesters marched for ratification. However, only 35 states had ratified it by then, fewer than the 38 states required in order for the proposal to become an amendment.
The House of Representatives voted 232-182 to pass the joint resolution to remove the deadline for the ERA on Feb. 12. Although Virginia ratified it, it was after the 1982 deadline, making the validity to be unresolved.
Legal experts argued that the amendment could protect women economically, such as reducing the wage gap and enhancing reproductive rights. Republicans argued that the amendment is unconstitutional due to the issue of abortion. The amendment could impact abortion-related funding and regulations, and some abortion-rights advocates interpret the amendment as a way to bolster abortion rights.
If the ERA is in the Constitution, it would codify into law: “equal protection from discrimination for all people, a clear federal judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination, provide a strong legal defense against a rollback of women’s rights, and improve the United States’ standing in the world community.”
Five states—Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota—attempted to repeal their approval of the ERA before the 1982 deadline. No state vote to withdraw approval of a constitutional amendment has ever been validated. However, if these states are allowed to rescind, the ERA would only have 33 ratifiers—short of the 38 needed to become part of the Constitution.