Constitutional Amendment

April 11, 2023

Michigan is wading into the long fight to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) last month introduced House Concurrent Resolution 3 and the House approved it. The measure calls on the archivist of the United States to certify and publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It also calls on Congress to declare the legislation as ratified. “Today’s resolution is a reminder that our work is not yet done when it comes to our commitment that all people — regardless of their gender — should share equally in the rights they deserve, and that Congress still needs to ratify the ERA,” Pohutsky said after the resolution passed on March 22. The ERA could finally become a reality. Here’s a look back at Michigan women’s fight for equality. With the recent ratifications of the ERA by Nevada in 2017, Illinois in 2018 and Virginia in 2020, the number of states needed for certification of the ERA to become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been reached. However, that action was stalled due to the Department of Justice (DOJ) under former President Donald Trump in January 2020. “We conclude that the ERA Resolution has expired and is no longer pending before the States,” the DOJ memo reads. “Even if one or more state legislatures were to ratify the 1972 proposal, that action would not complete the ratification of the amendment, and the ERA’s adoption could not be certified under 1 U.S.C.” Under direction from Trump, the National Archives and Records Administration did not add the ERA to the Constitution. The D.C. Circuit Court ruled in February in Illinois v. Ferriero that federal courts can’t order the ERA to be published. However, Pohutsky argues that if the Michigan Legislature OKs her resolution, this “would send a powerful signal that the amendment should be recognized as having been adopted.” ERA beginnings and connection and connection to Michigan The women’s suffrage movement led the fight for the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote that was passed by Congress in 1919 and ratified by states in 1920. Activists then turned their attention to the ERA in the early 1920s. The original ERA legislation was drafted in 1923 by women’s suffragist Alice Paul and was designed to ban discrimination on account of sex. In 1950 and 1953, the U.S. Senate passed ERA resolutions, but the House did not affirm them. In 1970, the effort received a boost. Then-U.S. Rep. Martha Griffiths (D-Detroit) introduced a bill just as seminal civil rights legislation had been signed into law and the women’s rights movement was gaining national attention. “This amendment has been in the Judiciary [Committee] since 1923,” Griffith said of the amendment in 1970. “Two generations and seven years is long enough for any committee to act.” The ERA passed through both chambers in Congress on March 22, 1972, sending the legislation to state legislatures for their ratification. Michigan ratified the ERA on May 22, 1972, but the amendment failed to meet the requisite number of state ratifications (38) by Congress’ deadline of June 30, 1982, so it was not adopted as a constitutional amendment. By the early 1990s, ERA many supporters adopted a “three-state strategy,” which was designed to organize and push for three more states to ratify and thus meet the threshold. The argument is tied to ratification of the Constitution’s 27th Amendment, which is also referred to as the “Madison Amendment” that was adopted in 1992. The measure, which dealt with congressional pay raises and not the ERA, became part of the Constitution and had been pending before state legislatures since 1789 before achieving the necessary three-quarters ratification. In 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to adopt the ERA, but the effort has been stymied by both the Trump administration and the courts. But women’s rights activists have kept up the fight. In a December 2019 interview with the Michigan Advance, Laura Carter Callow, a Canton resident who has advocated for the ERA since the 1970s, said: “I believe that this is a matter of civil justice that is long overdue.” SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST. DONATE Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.



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