Respect Equality

Did Ruth Bader Ginsburg just kill the Equal Rights Amendment?


Story at a glance

  • Ginsburg said she would “like to see a new beginning” in the ERA ratification process.
  • Support to ratify the amendment has gained momentum over the last few years.
  • The ERA guarantees equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she believes the U.S. should start over with the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratification process, as the constitutional amendment has passed a decades-long deadline. 

While speaking to an audience at Georgetown University Law Center Monday night during an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, Ginsburg was asked about the current movement to get the ERA ratified despite missing a more than 40-year deadline. The ERA would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality for women in the Constitution.

“I would like to see a new beginning,” Ginsburg said. “I’d like it to start over.” 

Congress approved the ERA back in 1972 and gave states a seven-year deadline to reach a 38-state minimum to get it adopted. The deadline was extended by several years but only 35 states ratified the amendment. 

More recently, Nevada ratified the ERA in 2017, Illinois in 2018 and Virginia became the 38th to do so just last month. The Department of Justice’s Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC) however, pushed back saying the ERA could not be ratified due to the 1982 deadline, and some states have rescinded their support. 

Ginsburg, a long-time supporter of the ERA, seemed to back that argument Monday, noting the five state legislatures — Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and South Dakota — that have since voted to rescind their support to ratify the amendment. 

“There’s too much controversy about latecomers,” Ginsburg said. “Plus, a number of states have withdrawn their ratification. So if you count a latecomer on the plus side, how can you disregard states that said ‘we’ve changed our minds?’” 

Ginsburg did underscore her support for an Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the Constitution, saying that the union will be more perfect when the statement that “men and women are persons of equal citizenship stature, is part of our fundamental instrument of government.” 

The House plans to vote on legislation to nix the ERA deadline Friday. The vote was scheduled after Virginia ratified the amendment last month.