Updated 1 p.m. Thursday
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to approve a resolution paving the way for Congress to take up the Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional amendment proposed nearly a century ago that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of one's sex.
Known as the ERA, the amendment was first proposed in 1923 by suffragist Alice Paul, and every session of Congress thereafter until it was approved by the House of Representatives in 1971 and the Senate the following year. The ERA needed three-quarters of state legislatures, or 38 states, to back it. But by the 1982 deadline, only 35 had. That changed in recent years, with state lawmakers in Nevada and Illinois approving the ERA; and Virginia, the 38th state, following suit in January.
The only thing standing in the way of the amendment, lawmakers said, was that 1982 deadline. That's where the resolution — H.J.Res.79, sponsored by Democratic Bay Area Congresswoman Jackie Speier — came in to remove it. Democrats and Republicans have introduced a companion joint resolution in the U.S. Senate that lifts the deadline, too.
"Our message here today is quite simple: We want in. We want in the (U.S.) Constitution," Speier said Wednesday at a press conference ahead of the vote. "... Because women are not recognized in our founding document, the Constitution, as fully equal to men under the law. We are not equal."
"It is a vote for America that we have fought so hard to become," she added. "Our vote is also a strong message that women in America are done. We are done being harassed, assaulted and violated with impunity. We are done being paid less for the same work. We are done being discriminated against for our pregnancies."