Idaho Legislature discusses ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment

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Earlier in 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), meaning three-fourths of the states have ratified it. With this three-fourths majority, the amendment could be presented in the United States Congress to be ratified as the 28th amendment in the U.S. constitution.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow brought the ERA to the Idaho legislature to recognize that all sexes deserve equal rights and to add an additional section to the constitution of Idaho regarding sex equality.

Unable to receive a hearing in committee, Wintrow is now presenting the bill personally. A personal bill is a way to document the policy request when a chair will not grant a hearing, according to Wintrow.

“I have continued to bring the ERA to the Idaho legislature because it is a conversation that we have to keep having,” Wintrow wrote in an email. “Despite opposition, it is necessary to keep asking the Idaho legislature to recognize equal rights in our laws.”

In 1982, Idaho rescinded the ratification of the ERA due to no other states ratifying the amendment during the extended 10-year period for states to ratify. Through the case of the National Organization for Women v. Idaho, a lower court gave Idaho the right to rescind the original ratification, according to Wintrow.

Laws can be repealed by a simple majority vote; however, the removal of an amendment can be harder to rescind. In 1920, women were granted the right to vote by adding the 19th Amendment to the United States constitution allowing for there to be little room to have their voting rights changed.

“A constitutional amendment has more force to it,” said Lisa McClain, professor for the history department with a focus on gender studies. “The basic principles of our nation, people stand up for constitutional amendments, the courts go the extra mile to attempt to protect them.”

With the laws that have been passed, the amendment is one more way to ensure that people are not discriminated against due to their gender. Anita Sloan, a sophomore accounting major, works with the American Cancer Society as a student advocate and ensures that student voices are being heard.

“The safety in just knowing that it is on record in the legislation that anyone cannot be denied based on their sex, I don’t think it makes that much of an impact,” Sloan said. “I may be more of a mental sense in knowing no one can be discriminated against, especially in the workplace or anywhere else.”

An ongoing debate among state legislatures, legal scholars and the federal government over whether the ERA should be ratified after the 1982 deadline is currently being discussed, but the ratification by Virginia has ignited a new interest in the House, according to Wintrow.

“No matter what happens, if the ERA passes it is going to provide constitutional protection against gender discrimination,” McCain said. “And I think for Boise State students in particular what this means for them as they go out into the world, is that you have protection against discrimination in hiring and also in equal pay for equal work.”

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