GraceNotes: Time for ERA has long since passed

Nearly 40 years past its deadline for ratification, the Equal Rights Amendment is long overdue. Although the ERA would be a historical landmark if it were to be ratified, the amendment’s symbolic value is not worth the struggle to make it a permanent addition to the Constitution.

The ERA intends to guarnatee equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex and ends legal distinctions between men and women. The amendment was first passed by Congress in 1972 at the height of the women’s movement, but only 35 states out of the needed 38 ratified the amendment before the 1982 deadline. Just last week, Virginia’s General Assembly passed the ERA, which opens the path for Virginia to become the last state needed for ratification.

One reason why the ERA is implausible today is that even if Virginia became the 38th state to pass the ERA within the state legislature, the deadline set by Congress has already passed and five states have withdrawn their ratifications. 

Since the political and societal standings have drastically changed since the last century, it wouldn’t be right to say that the states’ ratifications from so long ago could apply to the amendment. To be considered again, the amendment would need to go through Congress and garner the support of 38 states once again.

Opponents have clashed with supporters by stating that since five states have rescinded their ratifications before Virginia passed the ERA within its state legislature, the three-quarters majority needed to ratify an amendment is still not met. Though it is unclear whether taking back support for an amendment is permitted, this just adds to the complexity of the situation. So many aspects of the current situation of the ERA are unclear, which means that the ERA would need to go through extensive debates for an agreement on its fate. 

The efforts to include the ERA in the Constitution overshadow the benefits that the amendment may bring. Maybe the fight to include the ERA in the Constitution would be worth it if it somehow magically solved the gender inequalities present throughout society. However, the ERA is a bold, vague statement that will not bring much concrete change, much less tangible results. 

In fact, the ERA may even hurt women. Many existing programs, such as ones that promote STEM education for young girls, may have to be debated in court, according to The Hill.

Instead of wasting time to argue whether the ratification is valid, it would be better to focus on passing legislature to help women today. It is up to the state legislatures to create bills for women’s rights to help even the playing field. 

Although the Equal Rights Amendment would be the only other amendment besides the 19th, which gave women the right to vote, that guarantees women’s rights, it would be a better choice to focus on making concrete change instead.