PROPONENTS of the Equal Rights Amendment claim they only need three more states to ratify it, instead of 38 as the Constitution requires. In doing so, they’re asking for special treatment, not equal treatment.

In March 1972, Congress sent the ERA to the states. The measure had a seven-year limit for ratification.

The amendment was ratified by 30 states in 12 months. In the next six years, only five more states ratified it, as lawmakers learned that the ERA wasn’t just about securing equal pay for equal work.

In her 1971 testimony, U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug, an advocate for women’s rights, said that the ERA would eliminate “all existing legal distinctions based on sex” and would reject “the assumption that sex is ever a reasonable legal classification.”

Every effort to amend the ERA to allow common-sense sex-based distinctions failed.

In 1977, with the ERA still three states short of ratification, and with the March 1979 deadline looming, ERA proponents – including those who’d fought for the original seven-year limit-lobbied Congress to give the states seven additional years to ratify it. Congress gave states 39 more months to ratify the ERA, but not enough states ratified it. The ERA has been dead for decades.

Recent political maneuvers of ERA proponents do not change the facts. The Virginia General Assembly should stop posturing on a dead ERA.

Pro-ERA publications weighed in against extending the

ERA’s deadline in 1978:

The Washington Post said, “Extending the deadline is, in our view, a bad idea. It smacks of. .. expedient rules-changing.” The New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers agreed that an extension would be manipulation of the process.

Yet, on Oct. 20, 1978, Congress, within the first deadline, extended the deadline for ERA ratification to June 30, 1982 – and prohibited states from rescinding prior approvals of it.

The extension was challenged.

In the 1981 case Idaho v. Freeman, a federal court ruled that the time limit originally set for ratification was reasonable and that Congress couldn’t change it. The U.S. Supreme Court later declined to hear an appeal of the ruling. They ruled the issue moot because the ERA had failed to be ratified.

Now, some proponents claim that because the wording on the ERA’s seven-year limit is in the amendment’s preamble, Congress has the power to change it. This question was decided decades ago in the 1939 US Supreme Court decision Coleman v. Miller: the court ruled that a time limit for ratification is valid whether it’s placed in the preamble or in the body of a resolution.

Additionally, 24 states ratified the ERA with the wording that included a seven-year limit. How can those ratification s be valid today, nearly 40 years after the original deadline?

In 1994, Virginia’s attorney general wrote: “Because the Equal Rights Amendment was not ratified within either the original or the extended time limit established by Congress for its ratification … any action by the General Assembly to ratify it now would be a nullity.”

By 1982, 35 states had ratified the ERA, and five had rescinded their ratifications. In 2017-18, two states – Illinois and Nevada – attempted to resurrect the dead amendment and “ratified” it.

The Virginia General Assembly should acknowledge the facts and stop attempting to resurrect a dead ERA.

There may be good intent in the ERA, but history has shown us that good intentions often lead to bad results.

Bob Marshall was a member of the Virginia General Assembly from 1992 to 2018. He is the author of Reclaiming the Republic: How Christians and Other Conservatives Can Win Back America.

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