Minnesota House passes Equal Rights Act resolution
(Via the National Archives Foundation)
The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a resolution to affirm the state’s commitment to the Equal Rights Amendment, which seeks to amend the United States Constitution to end legal distinctions between men and women.
The amendment was initially passed by the federal legislature in 1972, and was sent to state legislatures to be ratified. Minnesota initially voted to pass the ERA in 1973. The vote on Thursday was 69-51.
The vote is somewhat of an oddity, as the ERA met the 38-state threshold to be ratified in 2020, and should have been effective as of Jan. 27, 2022. But federal archivists never added the amendment to the constitution, despite there not being any precedent for the archivists to deny the passage of the amendment and it meeting all requirements of Article V, which defines how the government can amend the constitution.
The Justice Department published an opinion piece in 2020 stating that since the deadline to ratify had passed in 1982, the question is no longer before the states. The federal government had voted to extend the deadline to pass the ERA in the past.
“It should be noted here today that of all 27 of the Amendments in the United States Constitution currently enforced, not one ever had an exertion placed on it,” Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL) said. “The only one that had an expiration placed on it was women’s rights.”
Bahner argued that there is no provision in Article V that demands a deadline, and noted that the 27th Amendment (which prevents a sitting Congress from giving itself a raise) was passed more than 200 years after it was initially introduced.
The passage of the bill has taken over 40 years since its initial introduction, in no small part due to six states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Idaho, Nebraska and North and South Dakota), four of which voted to take back their support of the amendment in the 1970s. South Dakota said its support ended when the first ERA deadline passed. North Dakota voted to take back its 1975 ratification in 2021.
The Republican-led Minnesota Senate passed a resolution in 2021 that would have clarified that Minnesota’s support of the ERA had ended after the initial 1979 deadline. The proposal was blocked by the Minnesota House.
Legal experts have doubts if state legislatures have the ability to take back support for an amendment after it had been passed by a state legislature, as both New Jersey and Ohio’s attempts to rescind their ratifications of the 14th amendment were rejected by congress.
Federal Republican legislators have blocked the reintroduction of the ERA in recent years, citing the protections it would give to women seeking abortions, as well as its impact on religious organizations that prohibit membership based on sex.
The federal senate Republican caucus, minus Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine Senator Susan Collins, blocked the reintroduction of the bill late last month.