Protesters march for women’s rights in Juneau in 2020. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced a bipartisan bill Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 to move forward the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, granting equal legal protection to the sexes, stalled in its ratification stage since 1972. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Protesters march for women’s rights in Juneau in 2020. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced a bipartisan bill Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 to move forward the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, granting equal legal protection to the sexes, stalled in its ratification stage since 1972. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Murkowski co-sponsors bipartisan bill to affirm ratification of Equal Rights Amendment

Stalled since 1972, the ERA would guarantee equal legal protection to all sexes.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Friday she would co-sponsor a bipartisan bill with a Maryland senator to remove the ratification deadline for the long-floated Equal Rights Amendment.

Murkowski, R-Alaska, along with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., submitted the bipartisan bill as their first bipartisan legislation of the 117th Congress.

“The required 38 states have ratified the ERA,” Murkowski said in the news release. “Congress must not stand in the way of finally enshrining equality for women into our Constitution.”

The ERA, approved by the U.S. House in 1971 and Senate in 1972, has languished in a no-man’s-land since then as it awaits ratification by 38 state legislatures. Dissenting states were anchored firmly in the Deep South. The bill, if ratified, would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. Virginia became the 38th state legislature to ratify the amendment, doing so in January 2020. Alaska ratified the amendment in 1972.

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“There should be no time limit on equality. Even as we celebrate America’s first female Vice President, our nation is held back as the only modern constitution that fails to enshrine full equality for both men and women. This is unacceptable,” Cardin said in the news release. “Most Americans are surprised to learn that the ERA is not already part of the U.S. Constitution. The states have done their job to make this happen. Now Congress must finally do its job and remove any legal obstacles to certifying the ERA.”

Questions about the legality of the ratification exist, said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, in a statement in 2020, following a House of Representatives vote to remove the deadline for the ratification of the ERA. Zack Brown, Young’s press secretary, said the representative supports the amendment but wants a do-over of the ratification process.

“Congress does not have the authority to change the ratification deadline retroactively, so that means we must start the process over to ensure that it is ratified in a constitutional way,” Young said in the statement. “Not only has the deadline come and gone, but five separate states have actually rescinded their ratification of the ERA.”

The bill has support in both sides of the aisle, in both the the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“We care about ensuring every individual in our great nation, regardless of gender, has the opportunity to enjoy the same basic rights before the law. For survivors of sexual violence, pregnancy discrimination, or unequal pay, the ratification of the ERA will be a critical step towards equal justice,” said Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., in the news release. “This isn’t an issue of politics — it’s an issue of fairness for all Americans. Congress must press forward and end any unnecessary barriers to the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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