Judge Rudolph Contreras of the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday dismissed a lawsuit from Nevada, Illinois and Virginia that sought government recognition of Virginia’s vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Contreras ruled that the deadline to pass the amendment had passed.
The ERA was first proposed in 1972 to prevent the denial or abridgement of equal rights because of sex. Virginia voted to ratify the ERA in January 2020, making it the thirty-eighth state to ratify the amendment. This satisfied the 3/4 majority of states required by Article V of the Constitution.
However, the deadline for ratification of the ERA was in 1982, which was 10 years after it was sent by Congress to the states. Because of this, the National Archives, which is the agency charged with certifying amendments to the Constitution, would not certify the ERA. As the last three states to ratify the amendment, Nevada, Illinois and Virginia challenged this refusal.
Contreras found Friday that the archives’ publication and certification of the amendment were simply formalities that had no legal effect. Because this caused no concrete injury to the states, they lacked standing to sue. Additionally, even if they did have standing, Congress had set deadlines for ratifying the ERA that passed decades ago.
Contreras reasoned that the Archivist has authority to examine the amendment before publishing it to ensure that it has been adopted according to the Constitution’s provisions. Congress had authority under Article V to set a ratification date, which was not met. Therefore, the ratification deadline was effective, and it barred the plaintiffs’ late ratifications.
Because of this, the judge dismissed the lawsuit.