Senate hearing on Equal Rights Amendment sees fiery testimony after appeals court ruling

Washington DC - The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) on Tuesday, but as witnesses began to testify, a federal appeals court dealt ERA supporters a major blow.

Sen. Dick Durbin kicked off the Senate hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment with strong opening remarks in favor.
Sen. Dick Durbin kicked off the Senate hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment with strong opening remarks in favor.  © Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The purpose of Tuesday's hearing was to consider a bipartisan resolution introduced in January by Sens. Ben Cardin and Lisa Murkowski that would remove the ratification deadline and certify the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th amendment to the Constitution.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin kicked off the historic hearing, titled How Congress Can Recognize Ratification and Enshrine Equality in Our Constitution, with strong remarks on the importance of ratifying the ERA.

"The principle of equal justice under law is fundamental to who we are as a nation. But unless that principle is protected in our Constitution, it is nothing more than words," Durbin said in his opening statement.

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“There is no room for uncertainty when it comes to protecting equal rights under law. Sadly, that lesson was driven home last year by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and – for the first time in history – to take away a constitutional right from every woman in America."

The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee also acknowledged the arguments against ratifying the ERA, such as the expiration date set by Congress, or that it's "not necessary," "dangerous," and "redundant."

However, Durbin stood firm against those in opposition of the amendment's certification, and hit his fellow committee members with a question:

"What kind of America do we want to leave our daughters and granddaughters? A country in which their fundamental rights are safe and secure? Or one in which the Constitution continues to fail to recognize fundamental equality on the basis of sex?" Durbin asked.

Federal appeals court packs a punch amid the Senate's ERA hearig

The Equal Rights Amendment would constitutionally ban discrimination on the basis of sex.
The Equal Rights Amendment would constitutionally ban discrimination on the basis of sex.  © ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Though some members of the committee, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, blasted the ERA, those in favor offered compelling testimony.

Thursday Williams, a board member of the ERA Coalition, said, "Here I am defending a Constitution that at one point considered me 3/5ths of a person. A Constitution that doesn't explicitly recognize women in it. A Constitution that in 2023 STILL doesn't explicitly state that I am equal to a man."

Amid Tuesday's historic hearing, a DC federal appeals court ruled that courts can't order that the Equal Rights Amendment be added to the Constitution because its backers failed to prove that congressional deadlines are not legally binding, per Bloomberg.

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The ERA, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, first passed Congress in 1972 and was sent to the states for ratification. However, Congress imposed a March 22, 1979, deadline for ratification, and only 35 of the required 38 states had ratified the amendment by that time.

In January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment, thus meeting the three-fourths requirement needed to add the ERA to the Constitution.

Cover photo: ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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