BOSTON (July 8, 2020) – The United States Conference of Mayors, along with organizations in South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana devoted to their states’ ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, Wednesday filed an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit filed by Equal Means Equal and other plaintiffs, demanding the federal government publish the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Represented by Gainesville, Fla.-based Southern Legal Counsel and the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C., the brief by The U.S. Conference of Mayors, Equal Means ERA, 38 Agree for Georgia and LARatifyERA, addresses the policy implications and outcomes of the Trump administration publishing or refusing to publish the ERA.
In January, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which was authored by suffragist and women’s rights activist Alice Paul in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1972 but has yet to be officially added to the U.S. Constitution. According to Article V of the Constitution, a proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States, or 38 of the 50 states.
However, the Trump administration is challenging the ERA’s validity on the basis that Congress had originally set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979, for the state legislatures to consider the ERA, and five states rescinded their ratifications in the 1970s.
The lawsuit filed in January in U.S. District Court in Boston argues that congressionally imposed deadlines for states to ratify the ERA are unconstitutional, calling on the courts to compel the Archivist of the United States to officially publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. The complaint also calls on the court to reject any attempts by states to rescind their prior ratifications of the ERA. It is the first lawsuit regarding the newly ratified ERA to arrive in court, and the only ERA lawsuit brought entirely by women.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors presents arguments in its amicus curiae – a “friend of the court” brief offered by someone who is not party to a case – that provide context and support for the plaintiff’s arguments.
Among the points raised are that ratification of the ERA would: put the United States in the company of all other industrialized nations in guaranteeing equality for women; lead to sex discrimination claims being subjected to a strict scrutiny analysis by courts along with race, religion and national origin; and provide uniform protections from sex-based discrimination across the United States for the first time in history.
The brief cites pay discrimination based on gender as an example. In spite of the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, employers can still pay men more than women based on factors including salary history “even if those factors are ultimately based on sex” because of a history of pay inequity.
“The citizens of the United States have spoken and affirmatively say that they do not want to be an international outlier. Even North Korea’s Constitution provides that ‘Women are accorded equal social status and rights with men,’” the brief argues. “The U.S. Archivist should add the ERA to the Constitution so that the expressed principle of the American people will be institutionalized.”
Joining Pro-ERA organization Equal Means Equal in the lawsuit are Katherine Weitbrecht, a resident of Norfolk County, Mass., who as college sophomore was mocked and strangled by a man with a history of making derogatory remarks about women for wearing a rape whistle on campus late at night. Plaintiff Yellow Roses is a volunteer student organization founded in 2015 in Quincy, Mass., by a group of middle school girls, whose sole mission is to advocate for and raise public awareness about ratification of the ERA.
Equal Means Equal has taken a lead role in the past decade to revitalize the movement to ratify the ERA, from grassroots organizing and campaigning to legislative issue advocacy and court action. Equal Means Equal officers and volunteers engaged in legislative ratification fights in Nevada, Illinois and Virginia, which became the last three states needed for final ratification of the ERA. Equal Means Equal also ran an ERA voter education and get out the vote campaign in the Virginia elections last year that helped flip control of the state General Assembly to pro-ERA.
Funding for Southern Legal Counsel’s work on behalf of the organizations filing the amicus brief was provided by Winsome McIntosh, president of the McIntosh Foundation.
About The United States Conference of Mayors
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are more than 1,400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/usmayors, or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/usmayors.
About Equal Means ERA
Equal Means ERA is a nonpartisan group of women and men who have come together to support South Carolina’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.
LaRatifyERA is a nonpartisan coalition of organizations working to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in Louisiana.
About Southern Legal Counsel
Southern Legal Counsel is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that works proactively to ensure fairness, social justice and government accountability for Floridians through focused, high-impact initiatives, policy advocacy and civil litigation. www.southernlegal.org