The state Senate Judiciary Committee today is scheduled to vote on Senate Joint Resolution 12, legislation by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, that urges Congress to act to enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Now that the ERA has been ratified by the necessary three-fourths of states, SJR 12 calls on Congress to approve House Resolution 891, authored by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, and recognize the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.
This year is the 50th Anniversary of Congress passing the Equal Rights Amendment and launching the ERA’s journey for state ratification. This year also marks two years since Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA in January 2020, achieving the constitutionally required threshold for amendment adoption.
“Gender equality as a legal right should not be subject to arbitrary deadlines, especially when, solely on the basis of sex, a woman in the U.S. today is still paid less, promoted less, and more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment,” said Sen. Skinner, who is vice chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “SJR 12 puts California on the record: The time is now for Congress to recognize the ERA as the 28th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
“It’s been 50 years since the Equal Rights Amendment was passed. That’s a lifetime ago,” said Senate President pro Tempore Atkins. “It’s past time that women’s guaranteed right to equality in our law and our society be enshrined in our Constitution. SJR 12 makes it clear to Congress that the ERA is a priority for the California Legislature and the people we represent. And soon, there will be girls in California and across the country whose lifetimes will be spent knowing their equal rights are firmly and visibly in place.”
The ERA simply states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” With those words, the ERA would provide a constitutional guarantee against sex discrimination and ensure that laws inconsistent with equality for women can be struck down.
The ERA also states that it shall take effect no later than two years after the 38th state ratifies it. Virginia, the 38th state, ratified the ERA on Jan. 27, 2020. But the ERA is still not officially in the Constitution because the Archivist of the United States has declined to perform his ministerial duty to certify the amendment. The archivist has pointed to a Trump Department of Justice memo that claimed the ERA had expired before Virginia and two other states ratified, even though language in the Constitution relating to how amendments can be added includes no timeframe or deadline for ratifying amendments.
In response to the archivist’s reluctance to certify the ERA, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-CA, introduced House Resolution 891 in January. HR 891 expresses Congress’ will for the ERA to be the 28th Amendment to the Constitution because it has met the constitutional qualifications for doing so.
“Women have seen a lot of progress over the last 50 years since the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced, but the fact that the fate of women’s basic rights being enshrined in the U.S. Constitution is in the hands of a male bureaucrat is a sad reminder of the work we still need to do, and why ratifying the ERA is so important. Women, especially women of color, have been at a disadvantage since the Constitution was written 235 years ago — it’s long overdue for the archivist to do his ministerial duty to certify and publish the ERA,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, chair of the California Legislative Women's Caucus. “Generation after generation has worked tirelessly to ratify the ERA. We must make this the last generation that will ever have to fight for their rights this way.”
Sen. Nancy Skinner represents the 9th Senate District, is chair of the Senate Budget Committee and vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.