Women's Rights
6:29 am
Mon December 3, 2012

Why Two Lawmakers Are Still Trying to Ratify The Equal Rights Amendment In Florida 40 Years Later

State Sens. Arthenia Joyner (pictured) and Gwen Margolis are trying to get Florida to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment again.
State Sens. Arthenia Joyner (pictured) and Gwen Margolis are trying to get Florida to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment again.
Credit MyFloridaHouse.gov

Forty years ago, the U.S. House and Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), an amendment adding language to the U.S. Constitution that says "equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

The amendment was the result of a historic surge of women's rights activism in the country. It took decades to get the amendment passed in Congress, but it did indeed pass at a federal level.

However, the momentum of the amendment hit a snag when it was handed over to the states to ratify it. By the time the (extended) deadline hit, only 35 of the necessary 38 states needed to get the amendment had ratified the ERA.

But through the years, Congress had taken up legislation extending the deadline and there is still a chance that if three more states ratify the amendment, it will officially be a part of the U.S. Constitution.  It will most likely be fought out in court but once that settles, it will be included.

At this moment, the 15 states that haven't ratified the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia-- and Florida.

This is why two state senators are still trying to get Florida to finally ratify the ERA.

Democratic state Sens. Gwen Margolis of Miami and Arthenia Joyner of Tampa are cosponsoring a bill that would ratify the ERA in Florida.

Margolis has sponsored a similar bill many times through the years. 

"It's been a long haul," she says.

Margolis also warns that any state that finally does ratify the ERA so many years later will have to make the legal case that it's valid.

"The first state that does that-- and many of the states still are trying-- will have the opportunity to see if we can get the courts to turn things around," she says.

"The other issue would be if the other states would have to pass it one more time," Margolis explains, "but it would be the courts to decide and not the legislators who are more politically divided."

In the last several years, Margolis has been able to get the ERA bill out of committee, but she is not sure yet how it will do in the slightly more Democratic -- but still Republican-controlled -- Florida Legislature.