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Minnesota ERA Supporters Revive Message on Billboards

Minnesota was the 26th state to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment before the effort fell short, when not enough states ratified it by the 1982 deadline set by Congress. (eramn.org)
Minnesota was the 26th state to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment before the effort fell short, when not enough states ratified it by the 1982 deadline set by Congress. (eramn.org)
June 11, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota's National Organization for Women and other supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment are using strategically placed billboards to launch an awareness campaign, aimed at getting ERA legislation passed by state lawmakers.

An Equal Rights Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution has been introduced in every legislative session since 1983, but never voted on by either the full House or Senate. Kathleen Murphy, co-founder of the ERA Minnesota Coalition, said the billboard locations were chosen in districts where there was resistance from state GOP leaders to act on the issue in the recent legislative session.

"The basic Equal Rights Amendment was never adopted at the federal level, and again, here in Minnesota we never put it in at the state level,” Murphy said. “So, there are certain ramifications that come from having it, and the biggest one is fairness in the courts."

Last month, Illinois lawmakers voted to ratify the ERA, making the legislation just one state away from potentially being added to the U.S. Constitution. That vote came 36 years after the original deadline for ratification set by Congress.

Originally introduced in 1921 and re-introduced in 1971, the E-R-A was overwhelmingly approved by Congress, which set a 1982 deadline for ratification by three-quarters of the states. It was passed in 35 states, but 38 were needed.

Many opponents of lawmakers' actions in Illinois said approval of the amendment was mostly symbolic. But supporters like Murphy say it's more important than ever for the government to state clearly that women and men have equal rights under the law.

"The whole issue of sex discrimination does not rise to the same strict scrutiny level that other forms of discrimination do,” Murphy said. “So, until we get it constitutionally protected, court cases can kind of vary in their response."

Advocates of ERA passage say the election of President Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton, along with the #MeToo movement, has breathed new life into the potential amendment. Until an affirmative vote by Nevada lawmakers in 2017, no U.S. state had voted to ratify the ERA in 40 years.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN