This MLK weekend, don’t just remember, but continue the fight
Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on Wednesday, nearly 50 years after the provision was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. The Editorial Board commends and applauds this critical step toward ensuring that no one is discriminated against on the basis of sex — especially as we take the next few days to remember and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Even after the deadline for the E.R.A.’s ratification was extended to June 30, 1982, only 35 of the 38 states needed for adoption had ratified the amendment. The passage of the amendment was, therefore, considered a failure. But Illinois and Nevada have both ratified the E.R.A. within the past several years, opening the door for Virginia’s decision to become the all-important 38th state to ratify the amendment in 2020. This does not guarantee that the provision will become an official part of the U.S. Constitution anytime soon, but it does set the stage for an important series of legal battles that could lead the way for the amendment’s revival.
There are a number of foreseeable obstacles that E.R.A. supporters must overcome in order to successfully add the provision to the Constitution, including the fact that several states have since rescinded their ratification of the amendment — a maneuver that some Constitutional scholars regard as dubious. Others argue that ratification after the 1982 deadline is null and void, despite that this arbitrary date was only included in the resolution proposing the E.R.A. and not in its actual text. This also ignores Constitutional history; the 27th Amendment was ratified in 1992, some 203 years after it was first proposed by Congress in 1789. While this amendment was never given a ratification deadline like the E.R.A. was given, there is no provision in the Constitution that mentions Congressional deadlines for ratification, let alone one that prevents Congress from changing the deadlines that it had set for itself.
These questions, among others, must be resolved before the E.R.A. can officially become a part of the Constitution. But perhaps even more crucial to the amendment’s ratification is that Virginia’s actions may have renewed a national movement for equality by placing it back into public consciousness. It reminds us that, even after a century of tremendous progress in the fight for civil rights, equality under the law is still not guaranteed to everyone.
It’s extremely disappointing — but not entirely surprising — that gender equality is still somehow controversial, even in the year 2020. Even though E.R.A. opponents may now cower behind a precarious legal argument against its adoption, we must not allow them to fool the American public into thinking that they stand for anything other than misogyny.
The crusade for civil rights did not die with Dr. King. It is painfully evident that his unrelenting fight for justice is still needed today. Threats to reform Title IX, the deterioration of immigrant and refugee rights and many other lingering political and societal issues are all why a push for the E.R.A. is much needed in today’s tumultuous political climate.“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” were the words penned by Dr. King in Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We implore the U.S. government to uphold its promise of equality and justice by adopting the E.R.A. and encourage our colleagues in the Davis community to continue living by the words of Dr. King. We must honor the legacies and sacrifices of those who paved the way for these rights by continuing the fight for equality.
Written by: The Editorial Board