Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following remarks, as prepared, on the House floor in support of H.J.Res. 17, a joint resolution that would remove the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA):
“H.J. Res. 17 is long overdue legislation to ensure that the Equal Rights Amendment can finally become the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The House passed identical legislation last Congress on a bipartisan basis, and I hope it will do so again today.
“In 1923, Alice Paul first introduced an amendment to the Constitution to guarantee full equal protection for women. The text of the amendment is simple and clear: ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.’ That amendment passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate in 1972.
“Unfortunately, it fell just short of being ratified by the requisite number of states before the arbitrary deadline imposed by Congress ran out in 1982.
“In the 40 years since, we have made great strides in this country to ensure equality—women have secured the right to vote, protection against workplace discrimination, and, through case law decided under the 14th Amendment, many other critical protections denied them for too long on the basis of sex. But without the ERA, millions of women have still had to march in support of their rights, their healthcare, their reproductive freedom and abortion access, and their dignity as equal citizens. Through the ‘me too’ movement, we have had long-overdue, and sometimes painful, conversations about the violence and harassment that women and others experience—whether in the workplace, at home, or in schools and universities.
“But still, to this day, the Constitution does not explicitly recognize and guarantee that no one can be denied equal protection of the laws on the basis of sex. The ERA would enshrine those principles and take the final, critical step of ensuring that laws disadvantaging women and gender minorities are subject to the most rigorous form of scrutiny.
“Last year, Virginia became the 38th, and last necessary, state to ratify the ERA, and, today, in passing H.J. Res. 17 we will be one step closer to enshrining it in law. This resolution removes a previous deadline Congress set in the Amendment’s proposing clause for ratifying the ERA, and will, therefore, ensure that recent ratifications by Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia are given full effect.
“We are on the brink of making history, and no deadline should stand in the way. The Constitution itself places no deadlines on the process for ratifying amendments. Congress just as clearly has the authority to extend or remove any deadlines that it previously chose to set in the first place. The recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia refusing to recognize the recent state ratifications makes it even more imperative that Congress act now in removing this deadline. We must make it absolutely clear that Congress does not want language put in the proposing clause of a resolution 40 years ago to stand in the way of full equality now.
“I want to thank Representative Speier for introducing this resolution, which takes that important step. This resolution will ensure, at long last, that the Equal Rights Amendment can take its rightful place as part of our Nation’s Constitution. I urge all Members to support it.
“I reserve the balance of my time.”
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