I have been thinking about a recurring line in the western film “Big Jake,” starring the late John Wayne.
Whenever Jake would encounter someone from his past, the other guy would say, “I thought you were dead,” to which Jake would reply, “not hardly.”
So it is with the Equal Rights Amendment. I thought the ERA was dead. Well, as Big Jake would say, “not hardly.”
Virginia’s legislature this week became the 38th — and ostensibly final — state to ratify the ERA, which found its way out of Congress in 1971. It was thought to be a cinch for ratification. Except that opposition rose against it from conservative activists, led by the late Phyllis Schlafly. The ERA was written to provide “equal rights” to everyone regardless of their gender. I happen to endorse the ERA, which I did when I first heard of it way back when.
The Texas Legislature voted to ratify the ERA in 1972, which makes me happy. Five states have voted to rescind their ratification votes. The amendment needs 38 states to ratify it for it to become a part of the Constitution.
Now, does this mean the ERA becomes the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Well, no.
Some groups suggest that time ran out, even though the Constitution does not specify any time limits for amendments that go to the states for ratification. They suggest that the ERA has not survived a sort of statute of limitations.
My own hope is that the current political climate, punctuated by the #MeToo movement and the growing intolerance of the way powerful men treat women, will breathe new life into the ERA.
The Equal Rights Amendment should have become part of the Constitution long ago. It’s not too late to do the right thing for more than half of our nation’s population.