Maryland’s senior U.S. senator and a group of his Democratic colleagues are leading an effort in Congress to adopt a long-awaited constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal protections to women.
Hours before millions of women convened in cities worldwide to march in solidarity on Saturday, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin and seven other senators co-sponsored a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment. The bill is concise – “slightly longer than two tweets,” Cardin noted in a statement.
The proposal reads:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
“I think many Americans would be shocked to find out that the U.S. Constitution still lacks a provision ensuring gender equality,” Cardin said in his statement. “Think about that: in 2017, women lack the same constitutional protections as men. This is clearly wrong and needs permanent correction.”
Some history: Suffragists Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman authored the first version of the bill, which was introduced in Congress in 1923. It didn’t pass. It was then introduced in various forms in every congressional session for the next 49 years. In 1972, both houses of Congress finally passed the bill, so long as 38 states (three-fourths of all 50) would ratify it within seven, and then, after an extension, 10 years. The effort fell three states short. The bill has since been reintroduced numerous times to no avail.
New Jersey Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are the lead sponsors of the bill. California Rep. Jackie Speier will introduce a matching bill in the lower house. Menendez said in a statement that he has now reintroduced the measure in five straight congressional sessions.
Cardin laid the groundwork for this push last Wednesday, proposing a resolution to eliminate the time limit for states to ratify the measure. Nineteen other senators, including fellow Marylander Chris Van Hollen, co-sponsored his resolution.
“I hope that the Majority Leader will bring this legislation up for a vote because American women deserve to know that their most fundamental rights are explicitly protected by our nation’s most venerated document,” Cardin said in his statement. “And what better way to set a positive tone for a new Congress and presidential administration than to take clear steps to fix a long-standing slight to America’s women.”
Maryland in 1972 added a provision to its Declaration of Rights that says, “equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex.”
Cardin joined his wife, daughter and granddaughters in attending the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. He also snapped some pictures with women from Maryland who made their way down for the demonstration.
— Senator Ben Cardin (@SenatorCardin) January 21, 2017
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