South Carolina Latest State to Move to Ratify Equal Rights Amendment With Bipartisan Effort

South Carolina could be the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), entering a guarantee of equal rights for women into the U.S. Constitution almost 100 years after its introduction.

First introduced by Alice Paul in 1923, and originally passed by Congress in 1972, only 37 states ratified the ERA, missing the needed number of states by only one. Although an extended deadline for the state-by-state process of ratification of the amendment expired in 1983, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a resolution in November to remove any deadlines for the ERA.

"With ongoing efforts by the federal and state governments to undermine equality under the law based on sex, it is clear that an Equal Rights Amendment is more important than ever," said House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler in a November statement. "The resolution passed out of the Committee today will eliminate the deadline for ratifying the ERA, bringing our country closer to truly fulfilling our values of inclusion and equal opportunity for all people."

"We know that in the year 2019, it is unacceptable that women still are not paid equal wages for equal work," stated Chairman of the Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Steve Cohen. "We know that when women are treated with equal dignity and respect in the workplace, in the home, by our institutions of government, and in our society at large, all of the American people stand to benefit. And we know that a simple but fundamental guarantee of equality should be welcomed rather than feared."

In January, South Carolina Democratic Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter introduced an ERA ratification resolution to her state government.

"The effect it would have is simply saying to the women of South Carolina you are no longer second class citizens," Cobb-Hunter told reporters at a press conference today.

Newsweek reached out to Cobb-Hunter for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

jerrold nadler, equal rights amendment
APRIL 30: U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler speaks as Rep. Jackie Speier listens during a news conference on women’s rights April 30, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty

Republican Senator Tom Davis also voiced his support for the ERA at the press conference. In a tweet, Davis said his "GOP colleagues should follow lead of Eisenhower, Reagan, Nixon, Ford, Thurmond and many others & RATIFY!"

With Rep. @GCobbHunter at the State House in Columbia this a.m. calling for South Carolina to be 38th state to ratify the #ERA #EqualRightsAmendment — great crowd & energy! My GOP colleagues should follow lead of Eisenhower, Reagan, Nixon, Ford, Thurmond and many others & RATIFY!

— Tom Davis (@senatortomdavis) December 11, 2019

Virginia is also in the running to ratify the ERA since Democrats took control of the state legislature after the last election.

"Virginia has been on the wrong side of history so many times that for us to be the state to put the ERA over the top, and in the year we're celebrating one hundred years of women getting the vote would just be poetic justice, and I'm excited to be part of that," said Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan to PBS NewsHour.

While some proponents of the ERA look forward to equal rights between the sexes being part of the constitution, conservative opponents of the amendment believe it would bad for the country.

"ERA would overturn countless state laws and demand that the federal government enforce complete sex neutrality in all aspects, including family law, criminal law, education, and insurance rates," said a press release from Eagle Forum, a group founded by Phyllis Schlafly, who opposed the ERA during the 1970s. "States would lose much of their power and authority, and our federalist system of government would become virtually meaningless under ERA."

Chairman of Eagle Forum Anne Schlafly Cori told PBS NewsHour, "I think there are a lot of people in favor of abortion that are worried the Supreme Court will chip away at Roe v. Wade and are pushing for the ERA to ensure abortion rights in the Constitution. In fact, I call the ERA the 'Everything Related to Abortion Act.'"