John A. Toscano – Queens Gazette
HISTORIC HEARING ON EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT: On the heels of the 50th anniversary of House passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing examining the final steps necessary to certify and publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“As the first woman to chair this Committee, I am particularly proud to convene this hearing on what I believe is the most important thing we can do to ensure gender equality in this country—finally putting the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. Gender discrimination is a persistent problem, yet our country’s foundational document does not guarantee equality regardless of gender. That is why I have introduced ERA resolutions 13 times during my career in Congress, and why I am so committed to seeing this amendment adopted as part of our Constitution now,” said Chairwoman Maloney in her opening statement.
Ahead of the hearing, Chairwoman Maloney sent a letter to President Biden and Vice President Harris calling on the Administration to rescind the Trump-era legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that has “needlessly held up” the ERA’s certification despite having met the constitutional requirements for adoption after being ratified by 38 states, she noted. The Chairwoman also wrote to the Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, urging him to certify and publish the ERA.
“Federal law directs the Archivist of the United States to certify and publish amendments that have met the requirements laid out in Article V of the Constitution. This is a purely ministerial duty, which should be done automatically. But under President Trump, the Department of Justice issued an opinion advising the Archivist not to certify the ERA. Today, I am releasing a letter from preeminent legal scholars stating that this Trump-era legal opinion is legally erroneous and should be withdrawn,” continued the Chairwoman.
At the Oct. 21 hearing, the Committee heard testimony from Carol Jenkins, President of the ERA Coalition; Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan; Alyssa Milano, actor and ERA advocate; Professor Victoria Nourse, Georgetown University Law Center; Bamby Salcedo, President of TransLatin@ Coalition; Eleanor Smeal, Founder and President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Minority witness Inez Feltscher Stepman, Senior Policy Analyst, Independent Women’s Forum, also testified.
- In response to a question from Chairwoman Maloney on the continued need for the ERA, Ms. Smeal added: “Statutes can be easily changed and they have been. Title VII and Title IX have been changed. None of them are complete and we cannot rely on the 14th Amendment or the interstate commerce clause. The Violence Against Women Act had a section in it which said that the survivor could take a federal action, a civil action to get damages in federal court – that was declared unconstitutional. The ERA would give a survivor of sexual violence a chance in the federal courts.”
- Bipartisan Committee Members, including Republican Rep. Clay Higgins, expressed support for the ERA during the hearing.
Witnesses agreed with preeminent constitutional scholars that Congress has the ability to extend or eliminate the ERA’s time limit, and that this limit “may be non-binding hortatory language.”
- Democratic Members of the Committee urged the Senate to take up S. J. Res. 1, the companion bill to Rep. Speier’s resolution, the House-passed H.J. Res. 17, which would eliminate the arbitrary time limit for ratification of the ERA.
Witnesses emphasized that the ERA would not only help ensure pay equity, it would also strengthen protections for the LGBTQ+ community, protect reproductive rights, and prevent sexual assault and violence against women, and more.