Three GOP attorneys general sue to prevent adding Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution

Republican attorneys general from three states this week filed a lawsuit that seeks to prevent the addition of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) — which would prevent sex-based discrimination — into the Constitution. 

The suit by the lawyers from Alabama, South Dakota and Louisiana comes as Virginia appears poised to ratify the amendment, which could push it over the three-fourths of states threshold necessary for it to become part of the Constitution.

Legal questions have remained about whether Virginia's likely ratification would result in a constitutional amendment. When the amendment was passed by Congress in 1972, it was given a seven year ratification deadline that was later extended to 1982. 

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Legislation has been introduced in the House to try to remove this deadline. 

The lawsuit filed by the attorneys general argued that the deadline is still enforceable. It also notes that following their ratification of the amendment, five states voted to rescind their ratification. 

“If this constitutional bait-and-switch is successful, there will be dire consequences for the rule of law. The people had seven years to consider the ERA, and they rejected it," Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement

The ERA Coalition, which supports the amendment, called the lawsuit "a disgraceful exercise in fear mongering" in a statement. 

"Alabama has filed this lawsuit to thwart the democratic process and the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans to enshrine the fundamental right to sex equality in our Constitution. The Attorney General of Alabama has done a disservice to women, including the women of Alabama," the group said. 

The ERA would add text to the Constitution stating, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which would be tasked with adding amendments to the Constitution, has said in a statement that it has requested guidance from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel on issues surrounding the ERA. 

"These issues are currently presented in a lawsuit filed by the states of Alabama, Louisiana, and South Dakota against the Archivist of the United States," the administration said. "NARA does not intend to take any action regarding the ERA until, at a minimum, it receives the guidance it previously requested and in no event before February 15, 2020. "