ERA returns, sort of

ERA returns, sort of

The Nevada Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee this week held a hearing on a measure that, if enacted, would have no legal effect.

The resolution purports to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which was sent to the states by Congress in 1972 and was defeated after it failed to win the required 38 state ratifications by the 1982 deadline. In Nevada, it was voted on in the legislature three times, failing each time. It was approved in both the Assembly and Senate, but in different legislative sessions. In 1977, following the three legislative votes, the legislature placed the issue on the public ballot where, in 1978, it was defeated 67 to 33 percent. Nevadans cast 185,720 votes on the advisory question.

However, the victory of opponents of the amendment was short-lived. The courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have effectively made the ERA law in the United States with a series of gender equality decisions that rely on the 14th and 5th Amendments.

That message has not gotten to some officials, like U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who has introduced a new Equal Rights Amendment in Congress. Nor is it understood by some activists, who have pressured state legislators around the country to “ratify” the expired amendment. Besides Nevada, Utah and Virginia have such measures before them and legislators in other states are considering doing the same.

The measure in Nevada, Senate Joint Resolution 2, refers to “the Equal Rights Amendment” although the measure sent to the states by Congress did not include that verbiage. It is the informal name by which the amendment was known. The ERA was written in 1923 by National Women’s Party head Alice Paul and journalist Crystal Eastman.