The U.S. House voted Thursday to repeal the 1982 deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, but Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young is joining a group of opponents urging Congress to start the ratification process over again.
Congress adopted the ERA in the 1970s, but the act failed to gain the ratification of three-fourths of the states by a June 1982 deadline. The topic resurfaced last month when Virginia ratified the act — making it the 38th state to do so and bringing into question whether this should mean that act stands approved.
The issue is muddied with legal complications and countering opinions aplenty.
Those opposed to the act say Virginia missed the ratification deadline by nearly four decades and that the process must be started over, meaning each state that already ratified the Equal Rights Act would have to do so again.
This concept is complicated by the fact that five states have rescinded their ratifications; however, such reversals have not always been recognized by the courts.
Additionally, some opponents working against ratification defend their position based on concerns that the adoption of the act might enshrine legal abortion into the Constitution. Other opponents of the act have expressed concern that the ratification would seek to secure pay equity, parental leave, pregnancy accommodations for workers and the expansion of transgender rights.
Supporters of the act argue that Congress never held the legal authority to set a ratification deadline.
The bill approved Thursday — seeking to do away with the already-passed deadline in order to allow full ratification of the act — passed 232-183. Five Republicans — Utah's John Curtis, Illinois' Rodney Davis, Pennsylvania's Brian Fitzpatrick, New York's Tom Reed and New Jersey's Jeff Van Drew — joined Democrats in passing the legislation.
Young, in a statement defending his vote against the bill, said Congress does not have the power to retroactively withdraw the deadline and that the process must start anew.
"I support the ERA, but doing it the right way. Discrimination based on sex is wrong, and very frankly, should not be happening in the year 2020. Alaska ratified the ERA in 1972, and I am very proud of that. However, amending our Constitution requires following a very specific process; three-quarters of the states needed to ratify the ERA before the ratification deadline," Young said. "Not only has the deadline come and gone, but five separate states have actually rescinded their ratification of the ERA. We need a fresh start.
"Discrimination is wrong, plain and simple, which is why we should be engaging voters and state legislatures and making a case for amending the Constitution," he said.
A companion bill in the Senate has been brought forward by Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and cosponsored by Maine's Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
However, given the partisan divide on the issue, it is unlikely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will move on either the House or Senate measures, meaning the issue will likely be taken to the courts to resolution.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.