Equal Rights Amendment
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States
Constitution which was intended to guarantee equal rights under the law for Americans
regardless of sex. The ERA failed to gain ratification before its deadline and although it
has been reintroduced in every Congress since 1982, public attention to it has greatly
The ERA :
“Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United
States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the
provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification. ”
Although the Nineteenth Amendment had prohibited the denial of the right to vote
because of a person's sex, Alice Paul, a suffragette leader, argued that this right alone
would not end remaining vestiges of legal discrimination based upon sex. In 1923, Paul
drafted the Equal Rights Amendment and presented it as the "Lucretia Mott Amendment"
at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration of
The National Woman's Party took the ERA to Congress in the 1920s, where Senator
Charles Curtis and Representative Daniel R. Anthony, Jr.—both Republicans and both
from Kansas—introduced it for the first time as Senate Joint Resolution No. 21 on
December 10, 1923, and as House Joint Resolution No. 75 on December 13, 1923,
respectively. Though the ERA was introduced in every Congressional session between
1923 and 1970, it almost never reached the floor of either the Senate or the House for a
vote—instead, it was usually "bottled up" in committee. Exceptions occurred in 1946,
when it was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 38 to 35, and in 1950, when it was passed
by the Senate in a modified form unacceptable to its supporters.
The Republican Party included support of the ERA in its platform beginning in 1944,
renewing the plank every four years until 1980. The ERA was strongly opposed by the
American Federation of Labor and other labor unions, who did not want to compete with
women, as well as by Eleanor Roosevelt and most New Dealers, who contended that
women needed government help and should not be forced into the workplace to compete
with men. The Act was opposed by most northern Democrats, who aligned themselves
with the anti-ERA labor unions and supported by southern Democrats. Beginning in
1972, the Democrats included support of the ERA in their platform.
Representative Martha W. Griffiths of Michigan, however, achieved success on Capitol
Hill with her House Joint Resolution No. 208, which was adopted by the House on
October 12, 1971, with a vote of 354 yeas, 24 nays and 51 not voting. Griffiths' joint
resolution was then adopted by the Senate on March 22, 1972, with a vote of 84 yeas, 8
nays and 7 not voting. The Senate version passed after an amendment proposed by
Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina that would exempt women from the draft failed.
With that, the ERA was finally presented by the 92nd Congress to the state legislatures
for ratification, as Article V of the Constitution prescribes, with a seven-year deadline for
ratification by the required three-quarters of the legislatures (38 legislatures). President
Richard Nixon immediately endorsed the ERA's approval.
The national debate on the ERA has largely subsided, in part because of expanded
interpretations of existing statutes and constitutional provisions which have afforded
more equal legal treatment of men and women. Supporters of the ERA have re-
introduced the amendment in the Congress every term since 1982 without success
On March 27, 2007, new resolutions were introduced in the U.S. House of
Representatives and U.S. Senate as H.J. Res. 40 and S.J. Res. 10, respectively. They
contain the traditional ERA language, but this time with no deadline attached. The
Congressional sponsors referred to the new resolutions by the name "Women's Equality
Amendment," but this title does not appear in the resolutions and some groups backing
the proposals continue to refer to them as the gender neutral "Equal Right Amendment.