WASHINGTON — Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski testified in support of the Equal Rights Amendment at a Senate hearing this week, opposite a fellow GOP senator who opposes it.
The Equal Rights Amendment, which was proposed in Congress in 1972, would codify equal rights for women in the U.S. Constitution and ban discrimination based on sex. Along with Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, Murkowski sponsored legislation in the Senate in January that would remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and recognizes that three-quarters of states have ratified the amendment — getting rid of barriers preventing it from being adopted as a constitutional amendment.
“We know that things have improved over the years, but we still have a long ways to go when it comes to achieving equality for women, and I think we need the Equal Rights Amendment to get there,” Murkowski said in her testimony Tuesday.
Three-quarters, or 38, of the 50 states must ratify constitutional amendments in order for them to take effect. Alaska ratified the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Virginia became the 38th state to back the ERA in 2020. However, five states have rescinded their original ratification. Congress’ ratification deadline lapsed in 1982, and Murkowski’s resolution would revoke that time limit.
The hearing came the same day a federal appellate court denied an effort to force the certification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Murkowski — one of 25 female senators currently serving in Congress — delivered her remarks next to Cardin and fellow GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, who opposes the amendment. Hyde-Smith called Murkowski and Cardin’s resolution “unconstitutional” and “deeply misguided.”
The House of Representatives passed legislation to remove the ratification deadline in 2020, but it faces challenges from key GOP leaders, including then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked a vote on the Senate floor.
While many other Republicans are also against the legislation, passing the Equal Rights Amendment has become one of Murkowski’s priorities.
Hyde-Smith on Tuesday argued that the Equal Rights Amendment is redundant and that women are already protected under the 14th Amendment and other laws. She also raised concerns about how the Equal Rights Amendment could affect issues like abortion and transgender women’s access to spaces like locker rooms.
“The Equal Rights Amendment proposes to add very vague language to the U.S. Constitution to ensure equality between the sexes, however, the ERA won’t do that,” she said. “Instead it would do the exact opposite and instead harm the very women it intends to protect.”
Murkowski cited statistics highlighting the gender pay gap and showing that women occupy disproportionately few congressionally appointed judgeships and CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. She also said women make up 25% of the Senate and 29% of the House.
“We’re making some progress. That’s good. Is it good enough? Shouldn’t be good enough,” Murkowski said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said in his opening statement that it “would be pretty obvious why five states rescinded when you look at the potential effect of this amendment.”
“I would suggest to you that the potential effect of this resolution is to ensure equal treatment under the law for women in this country,” Murkowski responded.