Federal judge hands major defeat to supporters of the 1970s-era Equal Rights Amendment

A federal court said no on Friday to activists out of Virginia who were hoping to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment after decades of debate, The Washington Times reported.

In his ruling, Judge Rudolph Contreras upheld a deadline set by Congress for the ratification of the amendment, also known as the ERA.

A case of missed deadlines

First proposed in 1972, the ERA stipulates that “[e]quality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

It takes the ratification of at least three-fourths of U.S. states, or 38 out of 50, for an amendment to make its way into the U.S. Constitution, and according to The Washington Times, Virginia says it was No. 38 when it comes to the ERA. But the commonwealth may have missed its chance.

The Washington Times reports that Congress had originally set a deadline of 1979 for three-fourths of states to OK the amendment, but later extended that deadline through 1982.

Either way, it’s a far cry from 2020, when the Virginia legislature finally gave the measure its own stamp of approval, as The New York Times reported.

According to The Washington Times, Virginia had argued in its case “that the deadline wasn’t binding, but the judge shot down that argument” in his Friday ruling.

“There is no doubt that Congress intended them to be binding,” Judge Contreras wrote, according to The Washington Times. “And few have questioned that they are.”

The future for the ERA

According to Newsweek35 states had ratified the ERA by 1977, but the last three states to sign on — Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois — have all done so within the last four years.

What’s more, five states — including Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Idaho, and Tennessee — have each “voted to revoke their ERA ratifications since then, a legal move that may or may not be possible,” Newsweek notes. “If allowed, the ERA would then fall five states short of its needed 38-state threshold,” the outlet reported.

In his ruling, Judge Contreras said the “Plaintiffs’ ratifications came after both the original and extended deadlines that Congress attached to the ERA, so the Archivist is not bound to record them as valid,” and argued that they didn’t have the standing necessary to bring the lawsuit in the first place.

With that, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board for supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment.

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