From its inception in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment highlighted the conflict between women's groups who advocated for legislative equality for all, and other women's groups who favored protective legislation for women. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that passed both houses of Congress in 1972 contained three simple components: equality of rights cannot be denied due to sex; Congress shall enforce the amendment; and the amendment would take place two years after ratification. Although ratification was never a guarantee, many states (such as Minnesota) did substantial legal work behind the scenes to prepare for the effect on Minnesota laws should the ERA take effect. Minnesota was one of eight states to ratify the ERA in 1973. By 1977 a total of 35 states had ratified the amendment, three states short of the required 38. Although the official deadline for ratification has passed, there are still groups advocating a 'three state strategy' to continue the push for ratification.
n 1923, suffragist Alice Paul outlined an Equal Rights Amendment at a gathering of women's rights activists in Seneca Falls, NY. She called it the 'Lucretia Mott Amendment,' to honor another prominent suffragist. The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress that year, and in every subsequent year (with substantially the same language) until 1972. It wasn't until the 1970s that support for the ERA gained substantial strength in the wake of the civil rights movement and through the added support of labor unions. In 1972, both houses of Congress voted to send the Equal Rights Amendment to the states for ratification. In passing the amendment, Congress placed a seven-year ratification deadline for the necessary 38 states to ratify. By the time the deadline arrived in 1979, only 35 states had ratified the amendment. In 1977, Alice Paul died, never having seen the amendment successfully enacted. The deadline for ratification was extended by three years, but by then enthusiasm for its passage had waned, groups opposed to the amendment had organized, and the number of states needed to ratify remained at three.
The most significant arguments against the ERA included: denial of women the right to be supported by their husbands; opposition to sending women into combat; opposition to links between women's rights and the abortion and homosexual rights groups; opposition to what was perceived as a federal power grab; and general religious opposition. Proponents of the ERA rely on Alice Paul´s argument that unless equal rights are written into the framework of our government, women´s rights are never truly secure. Although the issue of an Equal Rights Amendment has largely subsided from public debate, there are groups who are still advocating for its passage.
Alice Paul Institute. The Equal Rights Amendment. The website includes an overview and timeline.
'Note: The Effect on Minnesota Law of the Equal Rights Amendment', Minnesota Law Review, Volume 57, 1973, p. 771-805.