The three most recent states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, including Virginia, which became the 38th state to pass it earlier this week, have called on a federal judge to declare that it is part of the U.S. Constitution, NBC News reports.
When the ERA was initially proposed in 1972, it passed through Congress with little resistance and the support of then-President Richard Nixon, but any proposed amendment to the Constitution must first be ratified by three-quarters of the states, at least 38 out of 50.
Virginia voted to ratify the ERA on Jan. 27, but the Justice Department claims the state missed the deadline. Virginia, Illinois and Nevada has now filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., arguing the Constitution does not place a time limit on the process for ratifying an amendment, and the clause stating a deadline was not part of the language that the states have voted on.
"The work is done, every constitutional requirement has been fulfilled, and the ERA is now the 28th amendment to the Constitution," Mark Herring, the attorney general of Virginia, said while announcing the lawsuit. "I now have the great honor of picking up the baton from millions of citizens, advocates, organizations, and others who have led this battle for generations."
The DOJ Office of Legal Counsel wrote in an opinion earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the deadline, and that it did not matter it was included in a clause.
"The state legislatures were well aware of that deadline when they considered the resolution. We therefore do not believe that the location of the deadline alters its effectiveness," the opinion said.
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