U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is an original cosponsor of a joint resolution, introduced by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-M.D.) and Mark Kirk (R-I.L.), to remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
When Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it provided that the amendment had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38) within seven years. Congress later extended this deadline to ten years, but ultimately only 35 out of 38 states had ratified the ERA when the deadline expired in 1982. Ratification of the ERA by the state legislatures would ensure that the courts have clear direction that the Constitution forbids laws that discriminate based on sex.
"I am steadfastly committed to equality and creating a fairer, more just society, so I am proud to cosponsor legislation to help ratify the Equal Rights Amendment," said Senator Heinrich. "Because of strong support from local officials and community organizations, New Mexico's ERA has been invaluable to women's rights in the state, including access to reproductive health care for low-income women. By removing the ratification deadline for the federal ERA, we can help ensure all Americans are protected against discrimination based on sex."
While nearly half of states today have a version of the ERA written into their state constitutions, including New Mexico, no provision of the U.S. Constitution clearly prohibits discrimination based on sex. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution generally requires "equal protection of the laws," and the Supreme Court has used that clause to strike down laws that classify individuals based on sex. However, in 2011 Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave an interview during which he stated that "certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't." Ratification of the ERA by state legislatures would ensure that hard-fought advances for women will not be eroded by conflicting views over the extent of protections currently provided by the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have joined as original cosponsors. Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) is introducing a companion resolution in the House of Representatives.
Numerous groups have also endorsed the Cardin-Kirk resolution, including United 4 Equality, National Council of Women's Organizations, American Association of University Women, Business & Professional Women's Foundation (BPWF), Federally Employed Women (FEW) and US Women's Chamber Commerce (USWCC).
The full text of the Joint Resolution follows:
Removing the deadline for the ratification of the equal rights amendment.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That notwithstanding any time limit contained in House Joint Resolution 208, 92d Congress, as agreed to in the Senate on March 22, 1972, the article of amendment proposed to the States in that joint resolution shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution whenever ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States.