Equal Rights Amendment

(redirected from era)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Financial, Acronyms, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was the most highly publicized and debated constitutional amendment before the United States for most of the 1970s and early 1980s. First submitted by Congress to the states for ratification on March 22, 1972, it failed to be ratified by its final deadline of June 30, 1982. If ratified, the ERA would have become the Twenty-Seventh Amendment to the Constitution. The proposed addition would have read, "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 ERA was written by alice paul, of the National Woman's Party, and was first introduced in Congress in 1923. No action on the amendment was taken until the National Organization for Women, which was founded in 1966, revived interest in it.

When the amendment was first submitted to the states in 1972, Congress prescribed a deadline of seven years for ratification. Because an amendment must be ratified by the legislatures or conventions of three-fourths of the states, the ERA required approval by thirty-eight states.

Advocates of the ERA intended it to give women constitutional protection beyond the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. They believed that the ERA would compensate for inadequate statutory protections for women and sluggish judicial enforcement of existing laws. According to a report that accompanied passage of the ERA resolution in the House, the ERA was necessary because "our legal system currently contains the vestiges of a variety of ancient Common Law principles which discriminate unfairly against women" (H.R. Rep. No. 92-359, 92d Cong. [1971]). These vestigial principles, the report argued, gave preferential treatment to husbands over wives, created a double standard by giving men greater freedom than women to depart from moral standards, and used "obsolete and irrational notions of chivalry" that "regard women in a patronizing or condescending light."

The ERA encountered significant opposition, particularly in southern states. Opponents of the amendment held that certain inequalities between men and women are the result of biology and that some legislation and state policies must necessarily take this fact into account. Some also contended that the ERA would undermine the social institutions of marriage and family. Others argued that women already had sufficient constitutional protections and that the ERA was made unnecessary by recent liberal Supreme Court decisions, including frontiero v. richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 93 S. Ct. 1764, 36 L. Ed. 2d 583 (1973), which struck down a federal law that gave preferential treatment to married males over married females in securing salary supplements while in the Armed Services.

Frontiero also serves as an example of the way in which the ERA influenced the Supreme Court. In a concurring opinion, Justice lewis f. powell jr. cited the pending ERA ratification as a reason to delay gender-related constitutional interpretation. He favored waiting for the results of the ERA's ratification process so that the political process might guide the Court's constitutional interpretation.

By 1973, less than two years after its submission to the states, thirty states had ratified the ERA, and the success of the measure seemed likely. Only five more states ratified the measure, however, by the end of the seven-year deadline, leaving it three states short in its bid to become law. In June 1979, Congress extended the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982. During the extension, ERA supporters organized economic boycotts of states that failed to ratify the amendment. Despite all these efforts, and even though public opinion polls indicated that a majority of U.S. citizens supported the measure, no more states ratified the ERA.

Supporters of the ERA reintroduced the amendment in Congress yet again on July 14, 1982. The House of Representatives voted down the proposal on November 15, 1983.

Further readings

Corwin, Edward S. 1978. The Constitution and What it Means Today. 14th ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press.

Daughtrey, Martha Craig. 2000. "Women and the Constitution: Where We Are at the End of the Century." New York University Law Review 75 (April): 1–25.

Schwarzenbach, Sibyl A., and Patricia Smith, ed. 2004. Women and the United States Constitution: History, Interpretation, and Practice: A Collection of Essays. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Cross-references

Equal Protection; Women's Rights.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Phaedrus, a slave by birth or by subsequent misfortunes, and admitted by Augustus to the honors of a freedman, imitated many of these fables in Latin iambics about the commencement of the Christian era. Aphthonius, a rhetorician of Antioch, A.D.
12 The publication of this era which most probably has influenced these fables, is the "Liber Facetiarum," l3 a book consisting of a hundred jests and stories, by the celebrated Poggio Bracciolini, published A.D.
As the Persian imitated in the slender shafts and capitals of his architecture the stem and flower of the lotus and palm, so the Persian court in its magnificent era never gave over the nomadism of its barbarous tribes, but travelled from Ecbatana, where the spring was spent, to Susa in summer and to Babylon for the winter.
Within a month you must be Prime Minister, and we will show the world the way to a new era."
By 1896, when the Common Battery system created a new era, the telephone engineer had pretty well mastered his simpler troubles.
* Friederich Nietzsche, the mad philosopher of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era, who caught wild glimpses of truth, but who, before he was done, reasoned himself around the great circle of human thought and off into madness.
Sometimes a man survives a considerable time from an era in which he had his place into one which is strange to him, and then the curious are offered one of the most singular spectacles in the human comedy.
Those few minutes marked to him an era in his official life.
It must have been a first model in the year one of the typewriter era. Its alphabet was all capitals.
My theory is that in a far distant era Caprona was a mighty mountain--perhaps the world's mightiest volcanic action blew off the entire crest, blew thousands of feet of the mountain upward and outward and onto the surrounding continent, leaving a great crater; and then, possibly, the continent sank as ancient continents have been known to do, leaving only the summit of Caprona above the sea.
The new era began; the king was tried, doomed, and beheaded; the Republic of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death, declared for victory or death against the world in arms; the black flag waved night and day from the great towers of Notre Dame; three hundred thousand men, summoned to rise against the tyrants of the earth, rose from all the varying soils of France, as if the dragon's teeth had been sown broadcast, and had yielded fruit equally on hill and plain, on rock, in gravel, and alluvial mud, under the bright sky of the South and under the clouds of the North, in fell and forest, in the vineyards and the olive-grounds and among the cropped grass and the stubble of the corn, along the fruitful banks of the broad rivers, and in the sand of the sea-shore.
Dulcinea del Toboso Painted on my heart I wear; Never from its tablets, never, Can her image be eras'd.