January 11, 2020

Equal Means Equal Files Law Suit to Clear the Path to Final Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment

By Kamala, Natalie & the EME Team

Equal Means Equal Files Suit in U.S. District Court Seeking to Clear the Path to Final Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment on Tuesday January 7th, 2020. Equal Means Equal team held a press conference after filing the law suit.

Here is the press release:

BOSTON – Human rights group Equal Means Equal, a group of Massachusetts students, and a woman attacked on a college campus filed suit in federal court Tuesday to prevent a Trump administration official from blocking efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, arguing that congressionally imposed deadlines for states to ratify the ERA are unconstitutional.

“Our opponents have tried to stop us every step of the way: in Nevada, in Illinois and in Virginia,” said Equal Means Equal President Kamala Lopez, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and activist. “Where are they now? Here we are, undeterred, opening a new crucial front in our fight.”

The lawsuit calls on the courts to compel the Archivist of the United States to officially record ERA as the 28th amendment to the Constitution once Virginia becomes the 38th state to ratify ERA this month, as anticipated.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, the lawsuit also calls on the courts to reject efforts, including the recent anti-ERA lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota to prevent ratification of the ERA and allow several states, to rescind prior ratifications of the ERA.

“Our lawsuit is intended to ensure that the ERA becomes the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when Virginia ratifies,” said Equal Means Equal Legal Counsel Wendy Murphy. “We were compelled to file suit when politically driven opponents to women’s equality took legal action against us in Alabama. This issue is far too important for women to sit back and hope a federal court in Alabama does the right thing by all women in America.”

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege the ratification deadlines imposed on the states are invalid. “Article V of the United States Constitution nowhere grants Congress the power to impose deadlines,” the lawsuit filed states. “Under Article V, an amendment becomes valid when three-fourths of the states ratify it.”

Murphy added, “Even if Congress may impose deadlines, they may not be placed outside the text of the amendment itself, as happened with the ERA. Our position is that extra-textual deadlines are unconstitutional.”

Lead plaintiff Equal Means Equal has played a prominent role the past decade in the revitalized movement to ratify the ERA, from grassroots organizing and campaigning to legislative issue advocacy and court action. Equal Means Equal had boots on the ground in a leading role in the legislative ratification fights in Nevada, Illinois and Virginia. Equal Means Equal also carried out an ERA voter education and get out the vote campaign in the Virginia elections last year that helped flip the General Assembly to pro-ERA.

“We have taken our fight to the streets, to the legislative hearing rooms and to the ballot box,” said Equal Means Equal Vice President Natalie White, a New York based visual artist. “We’ve known for a long time the culmination of those efforts in Nevada, Illinois and Virginia would be an epic court battle. We are ready.”

Along with Equal Means Equal, the plaintiffs include college sophomore Katherine Weitbrecht, a resident of Norfolk County, Mass., who 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. She was not accorded equal protection under the law when her case was only charged as a misdemeanor because a hate crime was not possible. Massachusetts excludes women under its hate crime statute.

The third plaintiff is the Yellow Roses, 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.

With love and thanks

Kamala, Natalie and EME team