A federal judge on Tuesday struck down two Democratic states’ efforts to compel the federal archivist to certify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
Nevada, Illinois and Virginia filed a lawsuit on Jan. 30, 2020, following the federal archivist’s refusal to certify the ERA, which Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares later withdrew from after taking office. “[T]he States have not clearly and indisputably shown that the Archivist had a duty to certify and publish the ERA or that Congress lacked the authority to place a time limit in the proposing clause of the ERA,” the court ruled.
Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but only 35 states ratified it within the seven-year deadline specified in its text, meaning the amendment was three states short of officially becoming part of the Constitution. Nevada, Illinois and Virginia sued because they believe their ratifications, which occurred in 2017, 2018 and 2020, respectively, are still valid, despite the deadline set by Congress.
The archivist declined to certify the amendment at the legal council of the Justice Department, which wrote in a January 2020 opinion that Congress “has constitutional authority to impose a deadline for ratifying a proposed constitutional amendment.”
The District Court previously struck down the states’ case in 2021, arguing that states could not demonstrate “a concrete injury that could be remedied by ordering him to act” because the archivist’s certification is a formality with “no legal effect.”
Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a statement Tuesday after their case was struck down.
“We filed this lawsuit because we believe all of the requirements have been met for equal rights for all Americans to be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and we do not believe that Congress’ arbitrary deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment is lawful,” Ford and Raoul wrote.
“Although the court of appeals did not direct the federal government to certify and publish the ERA, it is important to recognize what today’s opinion does not say,” they continued. “It does not say that the federal government cannot acknowledge the Amendment’s successful ratification, and it does not say that Congress cannot clarify that there is no deadline for ratification.”
The attorneys general also encouraged Congress to act on the matter, highlighting yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on removing the ratification deadline of the ERA.
The ERA states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Opponents warn the amendment could be used to erase all gender distinctions in the law.
“The ERA has always been pushed by those who want to eliminate sexual distinctions,” Thomas Jipping, a legal scholar at The Heritage Foundation, previously told the Daily Caller. “As legislatures and courts eliminated discriminatory laws between men and women, the ERA was attached to a different agenda that includes gay rights and warnings about its impact on women’s sports, etc., were raised more than 50 years ago. It is not a coincidence, therefore, that today’s gender warriors strongly back the ERA.”
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