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Women's Rights

The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment was the central goal of the women's rights movement in the 1970s. Congress passed the ERA and sent it to the states for ratification on March 22, 1972. The operative language of the ERA stated, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The effect of the amendment would have been limited to the actions of any government or government official, acting in his official capacity. In addition to its symbolic effect, the ERA would have shifted the BURDEN OF PROOF in litigation alleging discrimination from the person making the complaint to the public officials who were denying that the discrimination had occurred. Such an effect would have been significant, because the party with the responsibility for carrying the burden of proof must do so successfully or else lose the litigation.

Congress initially required the ERA to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 states) seven years from the time Congress sent the amendment to the states. By 1978, 35 of the 38 states had ratified the amendment. Proponents of the ERA secured an extension of the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982. A determined effort by conservative groups opposed to the ERA prevented any additional states from ratifying the amendment by the 1982 deadline. However, some states have amended their constitutions to include an equal rights amendment.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Alyce Faye Wattleton to Zoning - Further ReadingsWomen's Rights - Nineteenth Century Women's Rights Movement, The Campaign To Defeat The Era, Domestic Relations In The Nineteenth Century