No Time Limit on Equality

Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash

Last Wednesday the American Humanist Association (AHA) joined the ERA Coalition, composed of 200+ organizations, at the steps of the Supreme Court at the No Time Limit on Equality rally. The AHA signed on as co-sponsors of the rally in support of ending the time limit on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and to fight for full equality for all.

The ERA Coalition is composed of organizations that work in advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels, in pursuit of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The AHA joined the coalition this August as we’ve long been strong supporters of the ERA.

The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in the U.S. House and Senate on March 22, 1972, and sent to the states for ratification. The drafted amendment states:

Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

The states had a seven-year deadline to ratify the amendment, and it was subsequently extended by Congress on June 30, 1982. At the deadline’s expiration, 35 states, just three short of the 38 states needed, had ratified the amendment. Eventually, Illinois and Nevada ratified the ERA, followed by Virginia. Even though 38 states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, due to the 1980s deadline, the ERA cannot be added to the constitution.

On February 13th, 2020, Congress introduced legislation to dissolve the time limit written in the amendment’s introduction, however, the Senate chose not to take up the bill during that Congress. This year, the bill has a bipartisan and a bicameral introduction, with the House having already passed H.J.Res.17. Now, it’s the Senate’s turn to pass legislation that dissolves the time limit on the ERA.

Opponents of the ERA have argued that it wouldn’t grant women more rights than they already have. Additionally, those opposed also believe it will overturn abortion restrictions and allow federal funding for abortions. With that said, the ERA is necessary now more than ever. Gender inequality is still pervasive, especially when it comes to labor and pay. Femicide and violence against women is also a consistent and critical issue within the United States. As stated in Politico, ERA supporters have emphasized that opponents tying the amendment to abortion are acknowledging that women are inherently unequal without access to the procedure and that opponents prefer to keep it that way.

Humanists support the Equal Rights Amendment and want to see its ratification into our Constitution. (The AHA ratified a Board statement on the subject as far back as 1975.) This decades-long effort is more important than ever. The No Time Limit on Equality rally was held on Women’s Equality Day to specifically demand the passage of legislation to end the time limit on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Speakers included Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman, former Virginia State Delegate Jennifer Carrol Joy, and many others. The House has already passed H.J.Res.17 and this rally was an opportunity to call upon the Senate to act now. We urge the Senate to pass S.J. Res. 1 to remove the arbitrary ratification time limit in the preamble of the ERA.

Correction: This post has been updated to correct an error in the text of the drafted amendment.