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Today, the Nevada State Senate votes on the Equal Rights Amendment. In a few weeks, the Assembly will take up the measure.
State Senator Patricia Spearman introduced the idea. She says the amendment is simple.
“We’re still at a place right now where women earn less than men and state by state they’re passing laws to get to pay equity," she said, "The Equal Rights Amendment what it says is this: you cannot abridge the rights of anyone based upon sex and so it means once it is adopted fully into the Constitution it means everyone who happens to be a woman is now constitutional equal to their male counterparts.”
If it passes, then only two states remain to ratify the 1972 measure, and Congress MAY make it the 28th amendment to the Constitution.
But that's not guaranteed. The original ERA measure was subject to a seven year time frame. Congress extended it three years, and it still didn't pass. Since then, some of the 35 original states that had passed it have rescinded their votes.
Advocates argue that the seven year time limit to ratify the amendment is moot, because the language is not part of the bill, itself. The time limit was imposed by Congress outside of the bill.
They point to the 27th Amendment - the so-called Madison Amendment - which was proposed by James Madison in 1789, but not adopted until 1992. That amendment commands that when lawmakers vote raises for their offices, that raise can't take affect until the next legislative session.
State Senator Patricia Spearman thinks that 200-plus year span between the Madison Amendment's proposal and its adoption means that the almost 40 year span between the failure of the ERA to garner approval of three-quarters of the states does not stop the ERA from being adopted - if three remaining states approve.
There is legal theory to back that up.
Opponents contend that the Madison Amendment didn't have a time limit imposed by Congress. And they feel that legal challenges - if the Amendment were ever to be adopted - will back them up.
Even if ratifying the ERA is just a symbolic measure, it's one the Nevada Legislature wants to make.
Senate Majority leader Aaron Ford testified in front of a legislative hearing in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Ford feels so strongly about passing the ERA that he testified AS HIMSELF.
With that kind of leadership, Senator Spearman is certain that this time – THIS time – the bill she has championed will go through.
Spearman admits like the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery but didn't immediately stop racism, the ERA will not stop sexism.
“Passage may not make it perfect, but what passage does is it gives us a pathway towards a more perfected union,” she said.
State Senator Patricia Spearman