The U.S. Constitution currently has twenty-seven amendments. What many may not know, or may have forgotten, is that there is a twenty-eighth amendment, which has been waiting in the wings for over 40 years. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed Congress during the second session of the 92nd Congress back in 1972. Its terms are short and sweet; namely, that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The Equal Rights Amendment was originally proposed as the Lucretia Mott Amendment back in 1923 by suffragette Alice Paul. It was renamed the Equal Rights Amendment back in 1943. The ERA was continually proposed in Congress until it passed in 1972. Congress originally placed a time limit of 7 years for ratification by the required 38 states. Congress extended the period for ratification through June 30, 1982. Twenty-two states ratified the ERA in the first year after passage through Congress. However, only thirteen more states ratified it in the following four years. The time period for ratification lapsed with the ERA three states shy of being added as the twenty-eight amendment.
However, the ERA has not died. In the past few years Illinois, Nevada, and just a few days ago, Virginia all ratified the ERA. Therefore, the ERA now has the requisite number of state ratifications. However, there is still the issue that the period for ratification has passed. There are several current proposed resolutions to remove the deadline for ratification. The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued an opinion stating that the ERA is no longer considered to be before the states and that even the additional state ratifications cannot lead to adoption. Furthermore, the DOJ goes on to say that the only way to get an Equal Rights Amendment would be to have it pass two-thirds of both houses of Congress and then restart the state ratification process.
For more on the ERA see: