Marylanders have long been leaders in the fight for sex equality, with the Free State being one of the first to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972.
Article V of the US Constitution sets forth the following requirements for an amendment to be added to the Constitution: 2/3 of both houses of Congress must pass a proposed amendment and 3/4 of the states must ratify it. The first requirement was met when two-thirds of both houses of Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. And in January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, meeting the constitutionally prescribed 3/4 of states threshold and satisfying Article V’s requirements.
Even though Congress and the States have each completed their portion of the Amendment process for the ERA, the federal government has not acted accordingly and certified and published the ERA as part of the US Constitution, and so it is incumbent on the State Legislatures—as co-equal players in this process—to urge the federal government to follow its constitutional mandate and recognize the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.
When the federal government declines to affirm the validity of an amendment that has been duly ratified, as it is doing with the ERA, this calls into question federal recognition of state government and disregards the will of the people. Marylanders must not delay in making a clear statement that we expect the Constitutional powers of our legislature in the amendment process to be respected.
On a more practical level, absent the ERA in the Constitution, federal laws could be enacted that eliminate the rights Marylanders are guaranteed by our state-level Equal Rights Amendment, legislative action, or court rulings. Rights currently enjoyed by Marylanders that could be jeopardized include the right to equal pay, contraception, abortion care, gender-affirming care, and same-sex marriage and intimacy, among others.
Resolutions such as the ERA-affirming resolution we are urging Maryland legislators to introduce in the 2024 General Assembly (a) raise awareness that the ERA has met the ratification threshold to be included in the US Constitution, but is unrecognized by the federal government, and (b) make a clear statement that the States, especially the 38 states that have already ratified the ERA, affirm its validity and expect the Congress and Biden Administration to do so. To date California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, and Minnesota have passed resolutions to affirm the ERA, and Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee have introduced ERA-affirming resolutions.