On Monday, Equal Means Equal and its co-plaintiffs accused the Trump administration of causing “catastrophic legal injury” by refusing to carry out the will of the people and acknowledging the Equal Rights Amendment became the 28th Amendment to the Constitution when Virginia ratified the measure on January 27th of 2020.
In its response to the government’s motion to dismiss the case, plaintiffs Equal Means Equal, the Yellow Roses and Katherine Weitbrecht alleged by not validating ERA ratification, the lack of action by the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero will “undermine the integrity of American democracy at its core by depriving the people of its bedrock right to amend their Constitution.”
The lawsuit filed in January in U.S. District Court in Boston argues that congressionally imposed deadlines for states to ratify the ERA are unconstitutional and called on the courts to compel the Archivist of the United States to officially record ERA as the 28th amendment to the Constitution. The complaint also calls on the courts to reject any attempts by states to rescind their prior ratifications of the ERA. It is the first lawsuit regarding the newly ratified ERA to arrive in court, and the only ERA lawsuit brought entirely by women.
The profile and controversy around the court fight intensified when the Department of Justice intervened, publicly citing its opposition to adding the ERA to the Constitution. Despite having no legal role, the DOJ nonetheless advised the Archivist of the United States not to officially record the ERA as duly ratified.
“Defendant has caused cognizable, indeed catastrophic legal injury, to plaintiffs and all who care about equality,” the brief filed Monday in U.S. District Court states.
“There are some who may think that this case, which seeks to elevate women to equal legal status, is not critical given these extraordinary times. On the contrary, adopting the Equal Rights Amendment would send a powerful public message validating every American’s right to equal justice,” said Equal Means Equal President Kamala Lopez.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said, “It’s time to stop debating whether women’s rights should be in the Constitution. The vast majority of states agree that women’s equality should be constitutionally protected, and I’m proud to stand with the Yellow Roses and others across the country in the fight to end sex discrimination.”
Equal Means Equal Legal Counsel Wendy Murphy explained the court battle centers around the fact that Congress illegally imposed a ratification deadline on the States in 1972, but the Trump administration says it expired in1982, before the necessary 38 states had a chance to ratify the ERA.
The plaintiffs and their supporters have insisted from the start that this dispute must be settled in the public, non-partisan arena the courts provide.
Plaintiff Katherine Weitbrecht added, “I hope the court will validate the ERA so that women will not have to endure injustices in the courts, and that their suffering will be seen as worthy of equal treatment.”
Kamala Lopez & Natalie White are proud to share their new article in the American Constitution Society’s legal forum. We would like to give special thanks to former Senator Russell Feingold, President of the ACS, for his support of EME and the ERA.
“Before we made Equal Means Equal, people told us either the ERA had passed, or it was irrelevant; then we showed them why it still mattered. Before we won Nevada in March of 2017, people insisted the original ERA was dead and buried, that we’d have to start from scratch; but we kept pushing for the three-state strategy, unwilling to throw away 35 state ratifications and over a century of struggle by millions of American women and our allies.
After Nevada ratified, we were told that Illinois was impossible; for the last 25 years they had pushed for a yes vote in the House to no avail – it would never happen. We rallied groups, established and newly formed, to come together across the state: across ethnic and racial divides; in rural and urban areas; across party lines; and Illinois ratified ERA on May 30th of 2018. And finally, in Virginia, where deeply rooted incumbents responsible for the egregious racially gerrymandered maps in that state laughed at our efforts to mobilize women, youth and people of color around the Equal Rights Amendment. We were a source of some amusement and derision for the first three years. This past year? Not so much.
So here we are. American women have delivered what was asked of us almost a hundred years ago, three-fourths of the states, and now they are telling us that it’s not good enough. That we need to go back and start again. Stay in our second-class legal status for another few decades.
Accept and absorb the deep disrespect that the exclusion of women from our Constitution represents. Well, we won’t accept it any longer. We demand basic human equality and fully equal protection under the law for the first time in our nation’s history.”
– written by Kamala Lopez & Natalie White for ACS Legal Forum, June 3rd 2020
These are indeed extraordinary times and require of us all to take extraordinary measures. Please join EME and the millions of ERA supporters across the country and the globe in supporting equality under law and demanding that the courts give women the justice they deserve.
With thanks and love,
Kamala, Natalie and the EME Team
PS: Your generous tax-deductible contributions are an investment in our results-driven organization on the front lines of the fight for equality. Any amount is greatly appreciated, but for donations of $500 or more we’ll send you our exclusive (and very popular!) handmade Equal Means Equal hoodie as a special thank you.