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Alabama, Louisiana And South Dakota Sue To Block Equal Rights Amendment

Dec 19, 2019
Originally published on December 19, 2019 6:48 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Three states are suing to block the potential ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The federal lawsuit comes as there's a renewed campaign to get states to ratify the ERA. Three Republican attorneys general argue that it's too late to revive the 1972 constitutional amendment that would ban discrimination based on sex. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota filed suit in Alabama federal court, seeking to block the national archivist from adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. First submitted to the states in the 1970s, the ERA fell short of winning ratification from the 38 states necessary by a 1982 deadline set by Congress. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall says it's too late to adopt it now.

STEVE MARSHALL: The opportunity to pass the Equal Rights Amendment has long since passed. And if Congress wants to do it and the states want to do it, they need to re - able to restart that process again.

ELLIOTT: He calls the new ERA push part of a far-left agenda to expand abortion rights and invalidate policies that use a biological definition of sex, such as gender-specific bathrooms.

MARSHALL: What we've seen, for example, with states that have passed their own version of the Equal Rights Amendment is that they've allowed for boys to participate in girls athletics. We've seen that several states have required taxpayer-funded abortions.

MARK HERRING: The parade of horribles that some folks out there are claiming is really just designed to stoke fear, confuse people.

ELLIOTT: That's Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring of Virginia.

HERRING: And the fact that it's almost 2020 and there are still states that are trying to block women's equality from being a part of the U.S. Constitution is repugnant.

ELLIOTT: The Commonwealth of Virginia is poised to become the 38th state to ratify the ERA, reaching the threshold for adding it to the Constitution. Herring says he'll take legal action to ensure that happens. Lisa Sales is with Virginia Ratify ERA, the campaign that's been lobbying the legislature on the issue. She says the lawsuit is about power and control.

LISA SALES: We will not stand for a few men in a few Southern states - Alabama and Louisiana - stand in our way, you know - or in the way of history. They are in the minority.

ELLIOTT: Politics aside, the lawsuit raises a relevant legal question, says Saikrishna Prakash, a law professor and Miller Center senior fellow at the University of Virginia.

SAIKRISHNA PRAKASH: I support the ERA. I don't think the ERA is still viable, having said that.

ELLIOTT: Prakash says the U.S. Supreme Court has held that ratification should be a single process that happens within a reasonable timeframe. The Virginia General Assembly is set to take up the Equal Rights Amendment next month.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.