Constitutional Law

Last 3 states to ratify Equal Rights Amendment sue to add it to Constitution

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The last three states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment have sued the U.S. archivist in a bid to force the addition of the ERA to the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to make the ERA the 28th amendment to the Constitution, report Courthouse News Service, NBC and the Associated Press.

The validity of the amendment is in question because only 35 states had ratified it by a 1979 deadline set by Congress, which was later extended to 1982. Nevada ratified the amendment in 2017, followed by Illinois in 2018 and Virginia on Jan. 27.

Also complicating the picture is the fact that five of the ratifying states have since rescinded their approval.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel released a Jan. 6 opinion stating that the ERA can’t become part of the Constitution because the deadline has expired.

The National Archives and Records Administration announced earlier this month that the archivist would not certify the ERA unless directed by a final court order.

But the lawsuit filed Thursday cites the process for adopting constitutional amendments outlined in Article V of the Constitution. One method is for a two-thirds majority of each chamber of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to propose an amendment, which becomes “valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states.”

Article V does not give Congress the power to dictate a deadline, the lawsuit says.

The suit also says ratification is a “one-time event” that cannot be rescinded.

The text of the Equal Rights Amendment reads, in part: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”

Other lawsuits have also been filed on the issue. Attorneys general of Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota sued the National Archives last month in a bid to block the amendment. The group Equal Means Equal sued earlier this month January to void the 1979 deadline.

See also: “Afternoon Briefs: Michael Avenatti is accused of bail violations; Virginia is 38th state to ratify ERA” “ABA president urges Virginia lawmakers to ratify Equal Rights Amendment”

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