Every Congress for decades has introduced the standard ERA, however modern day editions do not include any deadline. March 5, 2013, Senator Menendez (D-NJ) introduced it into the 113th Congress; S.J. Res. 10. The concern associated with this version is that setting the process back to zero, even without a deadline, could be a net loss as some of the original ratified states may not ratify now. To bypass that danger, there is a new effort to simply remove the deadline from the 1972 bill. Therefore the 35 ratified states would not be able to rescind, requiring only three more states to ratify and seal the deal.
You can argue all day about half a dozen serious unknowns. Believe me I know them all and have spent a lot of time over the last 30 years ruminating about it. I have found smart people on both sides of each strategy. In fact, it is the disagreement that has made me step away from the heated debate. Fact is no one knows if the deadline is constitutional or if removing the deadline is constitutional. No one will know until something happens, until the deadlock is broken and there is some motion in some direction. It will have to be tested one way or another.
Here is what I do know for sure:
- There is absolutely no reason to work to stop either strategy. I have refused to spend a single second arguing against either strategy.
- Any conversation on the ERA passing is time well spent.
- Until the deadline is removed or the start over is in play, the 15 non-ratified states are in a stalemate. The last 30 years have validated that. There is no reason for one of the 15 to make a move before the move has any possible application.
- Any and all speculation on how the ERA would be applied once ratified is total waste of time. No one knows. What we do know is that the 14th Amendment is not the guarantee the United States needs for constitutional equality.
Here is what I believe:
- The US Constitution is a dynamic document that determines the destiny of the people, the country, and, in some ways, the world. It is fundamentally incomplete and always will be until all genders are explicitly included.
- It does not matter which strategy gets this done. After one of the most painful nights of my life, several years ago, I came to the conclusion ~ ALL HANDS ON DECK. Support them BOTH and settle for no loss. NO LOSS.
This last December I began one of my marathon inquiries. I decided to find Miss Alice Paul*. I turned off the TV and radio. I put aside all other interests. I read around 30 books, 50 articles and interviewed six women who knew Miss Paul for varying amounts of time.
Here are two pertinent astounding things I discovered:
First, Miss Paul was not called to testify at the ERA hearings in the 92nd Congress. She asked the women who did testify to come to her home for a talk. They arrived with an idea that she would be pleased and grateful. In fact, she was furious. Miss Paul knew that 1972 H.J. Res 208’s inclusion of a deadline was certain death for the 24 words she had labored over for close to 50 years. She told the misguided young testifiers that now, with the deadline, the anti-ERA people had to stall the process in only one state to stop it DOA and, as history confirmed, she was right. I was beside myself when told this story. I asked emphatically, Why did you not include Miss Paul? Why didn’t you heed her concerns?! And she said they thought she was just an old lady who didn’t understand the great victory of passing H.J. Res 208. On the phone that day in January 2013 two women cried. Both of us older women now, we know the young ignorance and tragedy of ageism. Miss Paul knew everything but she was, “just an old lady in a chair.” In fact, Miss Paul was so upset and knew it had no chance of passing with the attached deadline, she did not accept the invitation to join in at the signing.
Second, Miss Paul, with three law degrees, did not know how the ERA would impact the law. She did not waste a precious moment on speculation or even on trying to control it. From her interview with Miss Amelia Fry, Miss Paul said, “I think if we get freedom for women, then they are probably going to do a lot of things that I wish they wouldn’t do, but it seems to me that isn’t our business to say what they should do with it. It is our business to see that they are free.”
I feel confident that Miss Paul would be very happy that Senator Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Kirk (R-IL) are going to introduce a bill into the 113th Congress to remove the deadline. I also feel she would never waste a moment speculating on the interpretation of the amendment. All Miss Paul would want is for 38 states to ratify the ERA and the United State Constitution to explicitly state, Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
As she so famously said, “There is nothing complicated about Equality.”
*in my reading and interviews I came to know that her preference was to be addressed as Miss Paul.