“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” So reads the text of the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1972. While 30 states ratified the ERA within the first year, conservative backlash slowed and nearly stalled the movement for the next four decades.
Nevertheless, supporters persisted. And in 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, meeting the threshold for three-fourths of the states to approve a new constitutional amendment.
While 2020 has brought crucial progress in the decades-long movement to enshrine sex equality in the constitution, what happens next is less clear. Will the expired ratification deadline prevent implementation of the ERA? Can a constitutional amendment truly spur gender equality — particularly where it is deeply entangled with racial inequality? Could the ERA even backfire in the courts?
At this watershed moment nearly 100 years in the making, we bring together perspectives from the worlds of law, political science, policymaking, and advocacy to take a critical look at the ERA’s past, present, and potential futures.
Featured image by Charles Edward Miller, licensed under Creative Commons.