Explainer: Senate considers the Equal Rights Amendment

February 28, 2023

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on “The Equal Rights Amendment: How Congress Can Recognize Ratification and Enshrine Equality in Our Constitution.” This is the first time the Senate has held a hearing on the ERA since 1984. It is anticipated that during March the full Senate will hold a vote on a joint resolution that would remove the ratification deadline and recognize the ERA as a valid constitutional amendment.

What is the Equal Rights Amendment?

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would clarify that men and women have “equal rights” throughout the United States. The amendment was first introduced into Congress in 1923 and an amended version passed in 1972.

Why is it problematic?

Though it has long been advertised as an amendment focused solely on women’s equality, the ERA has many implications for life, religious liberty, and human dignity.

How is the ERLC advocating?

The ERLC affirms that God created every person—male and female—in his own image and endowed them with equal value and dignity. We also affirm that every life, including the preborn, is worthy of protection. Unfortunately, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) debate is tainted with abortion politics. Abortion denies precious lives, both boys and girls, personhood and protection. The ERLC has communicated these concerns with lawmakers and is actively advocating against adding this harmful amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

More about the ERA

After passing both houses of Congress, the ERA was submitted to the state legislatures for ratification. For the amendment to be adopted, the Constitution required that it be ratified by three-fourths of the states by March 22, 1979. Between 1972 and 1977, 35 states had ratified the amendment. However, five states rescinded their earlier ratification: Nebraska (1973), Tennessee (1974), Idaho (1977), Kentucky (1978), and South Dakota (1979). 

By the time of the 1979 ratification deadline, the amendment was still three states short of the required number needed for passage, so Congress extended the deadline to June 30, 1982. The Southern Baptist Convention, in a 1978 resolution, opposed this decision to extend the deadline and “any amendment or any substitute bills which would provide for extension of the time for states to ratify the ERA.”

Since then, the ERA has been reintroduced in Congress every session as advocates have argued that the ratification deadline could be changed or discarded. The status of this amendment has been the subject of decades of litigation and debate with current proponents arguing that the ERA “was ratified by three-fourths of the states and is therefore a valid constitutional amendment, regardless of any time limit that was in the original proposal.”

Hannah Daniel

Hannah Daniel serves as Policy Manager in the Washington, D.C. office. She graduated with a degree in Economics from Union University in 2020. She lives in Washington, D.C., and is a member of King’s Church. Read More by this Author