Legislation /

The Equal Rights Amendment Fails in the Senate Despite Revival Efforts

The amendment was first introduced in 1923

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) failed to get enough votes in the United States Senate to move forward, marking the latest failure in the amendment’s 50-year history.

The measure needed 60 votes to restart the process of amending the United State Constitution. A successful vote would have terminated a deadline for individual state ratification that was established in 1982.

The Senate opted to block the measure following a 51-47 vote. Proponents of the amendment failed to win over 10 needed Republicans, although Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both cast affirmative votes. 

The Equal Rights Amendment was a central legislative project for the American feminist movement. Alice Paul, the founder of the National Women’s Party, originally introduced the legislation in 1923 on the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Woman’s Rights Convention. 

“The proposal fails to gain traction, largely due to class divisions in the women’s movement,” reports Town & Country. “While more well-off women supported the amendment, working-class women feared it would cut into hard-won labor protections that treated women differently than men.”

The Republicans became the first political party to add the ERA to its platform in 1940, followed by the Democratic Party four years later.

Subsequently passed by Congress in 1972 after a second legislative push, the amendment was sent to the states for ratification with a seven-year deadline. The deadline was later extended to 1982. 

Republican activist Phyllis Schlafly led a grassroots movement in opposition to the bill, which initially had widespread, bipartisan support. The founder of STOP ERA, Schlafly warned the 52-word amendment would usher in an era of sex-neutral laws that would harm not just women, but American culture in its entirety.

Ultimately, Schlalfly’s movement led to five states withdrawing their ratifications of the amendment. The ERA was never able to reach the needed threshold to become the 27th constitutional amendment. 

The Republican Party removed the ERA from its platform in 1980.

A third resurgence of support for ERA was sparked in 1992 after the Madison Amendment became the nation’s 27th amendment. 

Nevada ratified ERA in 2017, Illinois followed suit in 2018 as did Virginia in 2020, bringing the total number of supportive states to 38 – the number needed to move the amendment forward. Efforts to withdraw previous ratification have been introduced in Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky and South Dakota. 

Even though it was unlikely to pass, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer put the ERA to a vote – citing the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June of 2022 as a contributing factor.

“Women in America have far fewer rights today than they did even a year ago,” Schumer said, per AP News

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