Three quarters of Americans believe that the Equal Rights Amendment should become part of the U.S. Constitution, a new Associated Press poll shows. And, surprisingly, 72 percent believe the Constitution already guarantees men and women equal rights. They're wrong, it doesn't. But there's a chance it could.

The ERA was first introduced by suffragists Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman in 1923. Then, in the 1970s, it started gathering momentum. Amending the Constitution requires ratification by three quarters of the states, which is to say 38 of them. Congress originally set a deadline of 1979 for that to happen, and then extended it to 1982, but the amendment faced opposition from some Conservative women and it did not make either deadline. 

Things have changed in the #MeToo era, and in an astonishing instance of better-late-than-never, Virginia in January became the 38th state to ratify the ERA. Virginia is not the only latecomer. Nevada ratified it in 2017 and Illinois in 2018.

Is it too late?

Just because 38 states have now ratified the amendment does not necessarily mean it will become law. For one thing, five of the states that originally ratified the ERA have since voted to revoke their ratification, although it's not at all clear whether they can legally do that. Even if they can't or if they vote again to ratify it -- the revocations all go back to the 1970s -- both the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate would have to vote to extend the deadline.

That just might be possible, though. The poll not only showed widespread support for the ERA, it found that about 60 percent of Republicans, as well as almost 90 percent of Democrats support it. 

Meantime, ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, the snack company Kind has decided to throw its weight behind the Equal Rights Amendment. Working with the SMS-based app Resistbot, which automates the sending of messages to elected representatives, Kind has created a bot that will automatically send its (branded) petition on your behalf. If you support the ERA, you can try it out by texting "Pass the ERA" to 50409. Who knows? It might actually make a difference.

Published on: Mar 3, 2020
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