Cardin Says 2021 Is a ‘Once in a Generation Opportunity’ to Enact Equal Rights Amendment

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. Pool/Getty Images photo by Evelyn Hockstein.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) wants to add the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S Constitution this year, he said at a virtual event Tuesday.

The ERA, which would ban discrimination based on sex, has been ratified by 38 states — the three-fourths threshold required for it to be added to the U.S. Constitution — but there have been some snags in getting to that point.

Congress first sent the amendment to the states in the 1970s. But not enough states ratified it within the seven-year deadline for the ERA to become part of the Constitution, according to the Brennan Center.

Cardin’s Senate Joint Resolution 1 would remove that deadline and, he hopes, allow the amendment to become part of the Constitution.

Attempts — in Congress and court — to remove the deadline have faced challenges, including the dismissal, earlier this year, of a lawsuit that sought to remove the deadline. Another case, brought by the advocacy groups Equal means Equal and The Yellow Roses, was argued at the First Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month.

There are also legal questions around five states’ decisions to rescind their votes to ratify the amendment.

Despite those challenges, Cardin told the ERA Coalition on Tuesday that 2021 presents “a once in a generation opportunity” to enact the amendment.

“This is the year we can get it done,” Cardin said.

He noted that some Republicans, including Sen. Lisa A. Murkowski (R-Alaska). and Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), support the amendment. And Cardin said he has been asking other senators for support.

In a pre-recorded video played at the meeting, Murkowski said the proposal needs more support from Republican lawmakers.

“We’re working to make it happen, we need more support,” Murkowski said. “Quite honestly, we need more support on the Republican side.”

Cardin said he thinks the proposal has a “reasonable chance” to get the 60 votes needed to avoid a possible filibuster.

“I’ve talked to a dozen Republican senators, and I know I have their attention,” Cardin said.

The House passed its version of the joint resolution, H.J. Res. 17, in March. The House had approved removing the deadline in 2020, but the measure didn’t move in the then-Republican-controlled Senate.

A Pew Research Center report last year found that roughly 78% of U.S. adults were in favor of adding the ERA to the Constitution.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include information about the First Circuit Court of Appeals case.

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Bennett Leckrone
Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch, PennLive.com, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.