On Friday, March 5, 2021, United States District Judge Rudolph Contreras, an Obama appointee, rejected a back-door attempt by the states of Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia to “publish and certify” the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the U.S. Constitution almost 41 years after the ERA proposal’s expiration date.

The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was proposed by Congress in 1972, and Congress initially set 1979 as a deadline for securing ratification by three-fourths of the States.  However, as the 1979 deadline approached with only 35 of the necessary 38 states’ legislatures having ratified the Amendment, Congress extended the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982.

The proposal had significant opposition from women, led most notably by Phyllis Schlafly.

The ERA proposal failed to garner ratification from any additional state, so the constitutional amendment died.

In recent years, activists tried to win federal congressional support for a new Equal Rights Amendment for state ratification.  They were unsuccessful. 

Their only remaining avenue, then, was to try to reopen the original 1970s ERA ratification process.  Judge Contreras’ ruling explains:

Over the past four years, each of Plaintiffs’ legislatures enacted joint resolutions ratifying the ERA. With Virginia’s ratification last year, Plaintiffs say that the ERA reached the three-fourths threshold and is now part of the Constitution.  The Archivist disagrees. After consulting with the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, he refuses to publish and certify the ERA “unless otherwise directed by a final court order.”  Plaintiffs brought this suit to require him to do so.

Judge Contreras’ ruling granted the Archivist’s motion to dismiss and denied Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. 

As one of the organizations that filed an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the Archivist’s motion to dismiss, the Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women applaud this decision.