Senate rejects Murkowski-sponsored measure to advance equal rights for women
May 10, 2023
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate failed to advance a symbolic measure to enshrine in the Constitution equal protection for women, a century after the idea began circulating among lawmakers.
Senators on April 27 voted 51-47 to go forward with a bill that would lift Congress’ self-imposed 1982 deadline for three-fourths of the states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. However, the procedural vote, or cloture vote, required 60 senators for the ERA to move forward.
The joint resolution, sponsored by Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland, aimed to codify protections from sex discrimination alongside other protected classes, including race, religion and national origin.
GOP senators who joined all Democrats in voting yes included Murkowski and Susan Collins of Maine. All other Republicans who were present voted no, including Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan.
Cardin and Murkowski both spoke on the Senate floor before the vote.
Murkowski highlighted that Alaska ratified the ERA in 1972. “Some have suggested the ERA is no longer needed. We’ve certainly made great strides as women since 1923, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done,” she said.
“Women are a majority of the U.S. population but continue to be under-represented in elected office, in the courts, in the business world and in so many other areas. There remains, of course, a pay gap. We know of this, we hear the statistics all the time,” Murkowski said.
She later added in a prepared statement: “This is the third Congress I have co-led a resolution with my colleague, Senator Cardin from Maryland, to remove the deadline for ratification of the ERA by the states — a step that is far, far overdue.”
The ERA was first introduced in 1923 following the women’s suffrage movement and the passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.
In 1972, the U.S. House and Senate passed the ERA and sent it to the states for ratification, as outlined in the Constitution. Congress imposed a seven-year deadline for the necessary ratification by three-fourths of the states, or 38.
Only 35 had ratified the amendment by 1978 when Congress extended the deadline to 1982.
The last three states needed did not ratify the amendment until between 2017 and 2020 — well after the 1982 cutoff. They included Nevada, Illinois and Virginia.
The fight to implement the ERA has been the subject of numerous unsuccessful court cases.
Cardin and Murkowski’s resolution would have voided the 1982 deadline and accepted all requisite state ratifications regardless of when they were approved.
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