Biden urges Congress to include an amendment for gender equality in the Constitution

A Women's March in defense of their rights, on October 17, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The President Joe Biden urged this Thursday Congress to include the gender equality within the Constitution with its endorsement of an amendment for which feminist groups have been fighting for almost a century.

It's a statement, Biden called on Congress to act “immediately” to support the Equal Rights Amendment, known by its acronym in English ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and that was presented for the first time in 1923.

Congress passed that amendment in 1972, but for it to be included in the Constitution it needed to be ratified by at least 38 states before 1979, though the deadline was later extended to 1982.

That ratification led to a war between the feminist movement and the organization of the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, boosted by the rejection that the legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court provoked in 1973.

Schlafly won that battle and the “ERA” was left out of the Constitution because the necessary 38 states could not be reached.

However, although technically it could no longer go forward, with the explosion of the "Me Too" movement, several states began to ratify the amendment and, in January 2020, southern Virginia became the 38th state to do so.

So, the government of Donald Trump (2017-2021) prevented the amendment from going into effect on the grounds that the 1982 deadline had already passed and the ratifications of the last states were invalid.

But yesterday Wednesday, the Biden government issued a memorandum through the Justice Department questioning Trump's blockade and considers that the former president's order does not prevent Congress from endorsing the amendment now so that it enters into force.

After learning about the memorandum, two Democratic legislators with a long history in the feminist struggle, Carolyn Maloney and Jackie Speier, presented a resolution this Thursday that establishes that all legal requirements have already been met for the amendment to enter into force.

If Congress passes the resolution, as Biden is asking, the “ERA” could be added to the Constitution.

It is very possible that the resolution will be approved in the lower house, where the Democrats have a majority; but, the Republicans could block it in the Senate because, in that chamber, it would need a supermajority of 60 votes and the Democrats have only 50 seats.

The "ERA" has become a symbol of the feminist struggle in the United States. In its first section it establishes that "equal rights before the law may not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on the basis of sex."

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