Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the only out lesbian in Congress, marked International Women's Day Tuesday by introducing legislation to speed up the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Congress passed the ERA, which would amend the Constitution to outlaw sex discrimination, in 1972. Ratification by the legislatures of three fourths of the states -- 38 -- was required for it to become law, and it fell three states short when the ratification deadline arrived in 1982. During the 1970s the ERA was the subject of much controversy, with conservative opponents such as Phyllis Schlafly saying it would lead to unisex restrooms and women serving in combat.
Baldwin noted that the deadline for ratification had been extended from seven to 10 years, suggesting that the ERA remains alive and that the deadline can be extended again. Also, she pointed out, the 27th Amendment, known as the "Madison Amendment" and dealing with congressional pay, was ratified by the required number of states in 1992, 203 years after its initial submission.
Baldwin's bill would remove the deadline for the ERA and stipulate that upon ratification by three more states, it would be added to the Constitution.
"The ERA is intended to ensure equality for women and men in all areas of society," Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, said in a press release. "It is an immediate and decisive remedy to end sex discrimination in federal and state laws and provides a clear benchmark for judicial interpretation. Achieving equality and justice for all in the United States is fundamental to our democratic principles, economic recovery, and continued leadership around the world. The intent of my resolution is simple: a path to equality for all Americans."
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