Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

May 13, 2013

It’s time to ratify Equal Rights Amendment

 I have three words I want to say: “It is time.”

By those three words, I am referring to passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

To improve chances of its passage, I have introduced a resolution — which has bipartisan support — that would remove the deadline for state ratification of the ERA.

I believe there should never be a deadline when it comes to ensuring the equal rights of any American.

 When the ERA passed Congress in 1972, it was required that the measure be ratified by three-forths of the states (38) within seven years.

That deadline was later extended by three years to 1982. Now, more than 20 years later, 35 states have ratified the amendment — three short of the required 38.

 Congress has the authority to give the states another chance, and it is time that we do just that. I have introduced a joint resolution, which would remove the deadline for states’ ratification of the amendment.  The U.S. Constitution contains no time limit for ratification of constitutional amendments.

In fact, the 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting immediate congressional pay raises was ratified 203 years after its introduction.  

Today, nearly half of the states have a version of the ERA written into their state constitutions. Maryland’s Constitution includes the passage: Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex.”

 While I am pleased that so many states have made equal rights part of their constitution, it is time that the ERA be ratified to provide courts with clearer guidance in deciding discrimination cases.  

I am very troubled by a statement made by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who said in a 2011 interview that the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. It is time that we make sure there can be no doubt or misunderstanding by the courts or any other body that discrimination based on sex will not be tolerated.

 There is strong support for my ERA resolution, which has been endorsed by a wide variety of groups, including United 4 Equality, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the National Organization for Women, the American Association of University Women, Federally Employed Women and the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.  

I also am extremely pleased that the Senate co-sponsors of the resolution include: Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-ME), Carl Levin (D-MI) Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Martin Henrich (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mark Begich (D-AK). The resolution also has been introduced in the U.S. House by Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ).

 Women have made tremendous advances in our nation, but America still has not realized its promise of equal protection under the law for men and women.

It is time we improve the chances of ERA passage by removing the deadline for state ratification of the amendment.

Cardin, a Democrat, is Maryland’s junior U.S. Senator.

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