Story at a glance

  • The ERA passed both chambers of Congress with broad margins in 1972.
  • Congress at that time said the amendment would be formally added to the Constitution once 38 states ratified it within seven years from the date of submission by Congress. The deadline was extended to 1982.
  • Virginia later became the 38th state to ratify the amendment in 2020, as well as Nevada and Illinois in recent years. But the Department of Justice issued a legal memo concluding it was too late. A federal judge sided with the Justice Department on the decision.

Virginia, Illinois and Nevada are filing an appeal against a federal judge’s ruling that the states' votes to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) came too late for it to be added to the Constitution. 

The ERA would add language to the Constitution ensuring that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” and would grant Congress the power to enforce the amendment. 


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The ERA passed both chambers of Congress with broad margins in 1972. Congress at that time said the amendment would be formally added to the Constitution once 38 states ratified it within seven years from the date of submission by Congress. The deadline was extended to 1982. 

Virginia later became the 38th state to ratify the amendment in 2020, as well as Nevada and Illinois in recent years. But the Department of Justice issued a legal memo concluding that because the 1982 deadline for ratification has expired, it was too late. 

The states sued in January 2020 arguing Congress had no right to establish the deadline, but U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled against them. 

Now the three states are appealing the ruling in a fight that could go all the way to the Supreme Court. 

“The United States cannot continue forcing women to wait to be recognized as equal under the country’s founding document,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement. 

"Throughout the years, efforts to have the Equal Rights Amendment added to the Constitution have been met with many impediments, but every single time this movement has overcome those hurdles and come out the other side stronger than ever. To those who have sent a clear message that they do not believe in women's equality – it's time that you move into the 21st century," Herring said. 


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Published on May 04, 2021