If one more state ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment, it could make it into the Constitution — maybe.
It’s taken 45 years for 37 states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, with Illinois’s vote on Wednesday to do so leaving it one short of the 38 states needed to enshrine a formal amendment in the US Constitution.
But there’s a legal debate raging about whether the deadline to ratify the amendment guaranteeing equal rights to women passed decades ago or if there’s a possible legal workaround.
Still, an unclear future is the brightest prospect for the amendment in decades. The amendment, which guarantees that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” passed Congress on a bipartisan basis in 1972, became a culture war battleground, and then, until last year, lay dormant, presumed to be a lost cause.
Its revival comes in the midst of the #MeToo movement, the Women’s March, and a moment of a sort of reawakening of feminism and women’s activism in America. Women are running for office at record rates in 2018, and Donald Trump’s victory — and Hillary Clinton’s loss — in 2016 has spurred a new wave of women finding their voices and insisting on equality. That’s translated not just to new causes but to the revival of old ones: For decades, Indiana, which ratified the amendment in 1977, was the 35th and last state to sign on. Then last year, Nevada became the 36th.
The Equal Rights Amendment had a lot of momentum behind it in the 1970s, and then it just sort of petered out