In January, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The resolution was promptly sent to the National Archivist for certification. This ministerial task is proscribed by federal statute and this process was followed by Nevada, Illinois, the archivist, and every state that ratified the “Madison Amendment” in the 90s. However Alabama, South Dakota and Louisiana sued to prevent the Archivist from doing his job. Upon the advice of the Department of Justice (i.e, the lawyers for the Executive Branch), the Archivist has not yet certified Virginia’s ratification.
In response, Illinois, Nevada and Virginia filed a separate lawsuit to compel the Archivist to certify Virginia's ratification and declare the Equal Rights Amendment as added to the US Constitution. Again, this is a clerical task given to the Archivist by a federal law. Meanwhile, a private lawsuit was filed by the group Equal Means Equal (filmmakers).
The original lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed in March. However, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Nebraska and South Dakota then asked the DC court to join or "intervene" in the Illinois lawsuit. The Department of Justice filed a "Motion to Dismiss" the case, which is a typical first step in litigation. Essentially, there are two parallel lawsuit against Archivist. One is private parties and the other is between the states. Collectively, this is the litigation strategy.
Complimenting the litigation strategy is a concurrent legislative strategy to have Congress remove the deadline. Good news! The House of Representatives voted on February 13 (Galentines Day!) to remove the time limit on equality. The resolution is now before the Senate as SJRes6. There are 48 cosponsors as of May 26th.
What happens next?
There are several possibilities, but no one really knows. One outcome would be for the Senate to vote this year to remove the time limit, and for the Supreme Court to then defer to Congress on the doctrine of “political question” and affirm that only Congress can author an Amendment. The ERA would then become part of the U.S. Constitution. Another possibility is that the Supreme Court directs the Archivist to certify Virginia's ratification without the Senate taking action. The ERA would then become part of the U.S. Constitution. A third possibility is that a Supreme Court decision dismisses the ERA, and advocates must restart the ratification process.
Much of the future will be determined by the Supreme Court but there is one way ERA advocates can influence and that is pushing for a senate vote.
The plan for the US Senate.
In Illinois, at the height of ratification efforts, we focused on legislators in contested races. That same strategy can work in the Senate. Pollsters have identified eight states as having competitive Senate races. Working under the assumption that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and party leadership are focused on maintaining a senate majority, our task is to convince them that allowing a vote for the Equal Rights Amendment is critical to winning key Senate races. These key states are Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky and Iowa.
What you can do?
Reach out to family friends and peers in those states. Tell them about the Senate and why they could play a crucial role. Not only are they in a pivotal state, but they may be part of a pivotal demographic. Historically, women vote at a higher rate, and politicians know that well. Here are some things they can do 1) write a letter to their senator (yes, paper) 2) attend candidate forums which are now on-line, 3) write a letter to the editor, and 4) post on social email. Samples are located at eraIllinois.org/resources and voteequality.us
When to act?
We have a window between now and November. You can make a difference and together we can get this done. #ERAnow
More information at: http://www.eraillinois.org/
There are currently two federal bills we should be pushing regarding ERA. S.J.Res15 and H.J.Res 51 are identical bills which eliminate the time limit for ratification of the equal rights amendment. The senate bill is cosponsored by both of Illinois senators Durbin and Kirk and was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The house bill is cosponsored by 111 representatives, unfortunately all DEMOCRATS but of those only 7 of the Illinois representatives. As of June 16th, Illinois Representatives cosponsoring the house bill are Bustos, Foster, Gutierrez, Kelly, Quiqley, Rush and Schakowsky. The house bill (as of 6/1/15) was referred to the Committee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
During the coming weeks, it is imperative that we write letters to the editors of all major papers in Illinois with this information and urge our elected representatives to sign onto this house bill and to move it forward. It is necessary that we educate all our local area citizens regarding these bills and have them contact their elected reps to encourage passage as well. Only when we make enough noise to get their attention, will this issue be moved forward.
Equal Rights for all is NOT a women’s issue; it is a FAMILY Issue! Similarly, the issue is not a democratic or republican issue either despite the fact that only 1 U.S. senator (Kirk) has signed on to support the issue and not one of the many republican representatives have.
Our elected officials need to hear not only from the females they are obligated to represent but from the many males who also feel it is time for this issue to be completed. Encourage direct contact with all federally elected Illinois senators and representatives asking them to support these bills and to vote them into being this session.
There has been no movement in the Illinois house or senate and there will NOT be until enough individuals contact their elected officials and encourage them to support this issue. Once that has occurred, Representative Lang will once again introduce a bill to have it passed in Illinois. Ladies, this issue is the most important plank of our legislative platform and should receive your utmost attention to have it passed so we can drop it from a platform which has been the same for far too long.
To contact the Illinois State Representatives and encourage them to vote yes in Springfield use these templates:Federal telephone script and letter for ERA.pdf
IFBW ERA Representative