Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of Resolution to Remove the Time Limit for ERA Ratification

March 17, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.J. Res. 17, a Joint Resolution to remove an arbitrary time limit previously set by Congress for the states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  And it's wonderful to see Members of Congress wearing white today to observe the fact that we are making history by passing legislation about equality in our country.  

I thank Congresswoman Jackie Speier for her relentless championing of this Equal Rights Amendment in terms of the date that distinguished Chair of the Judiciary Committee referenced.  And I also thank Carolyn Maloney for her long-term advocacy of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman Nadler, for bringing – for enabling us to have this legislation on the Floor today and for your leadership on this issue over time. 

Madam Speaker, 100 years ago, 1921, a solemn promise was made to the women of our country, one honoring our most fundamental truth as a nation, as the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced.  When it was first introduced it said, ‘Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.’  Simple, clear, fair and just. 

Yet, a century later, that promise remains unfulfilled.  The Equal Rights Amendment still has not been enshrined in the Constitution, and the American women still face inequality under the law and, therefore, in their lives. 

In recent years, American women have renewed the legal fight for the Equal Rights Amendment.  Women of all backgrounds, students, mothers, seniors, women of color, indigenous women, et cetera, have taken up the mantle of the suffragists before them, standing on suffragists' shoulders as they marched and mobilized, protested and picketed for their rights.  And because of their courage and commitment, 38 states have now ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.  But one final barrier remains, removing the artificial, arbitrary time limit for ratification.  As the distinguished Chairman pointed out, that deadline is not in the – timetable is not in the Constitution.  Until we remove that arbitrary time limit, the ERA cannot become part of our Constitution.  Last year, the House passed legislation to remove this arbitrary time limit, but unfortunately, the Senate failed to do so. 

So, today, the House will once again pass this legislation and send it to the Senate for a vote and we are proud to be doing it in Women's History Month.  We salute, again, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, our champion on this legislation on the Floor today, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who has been our lead sponsor of the ERA for 25 years now.  And I thank Members on both sides of the aisle, including Co-Sponsor, Representative Tom Reed of New York, for their bipartisan support in the Congress, which reflects the overwhelming bipartisan support in the country.  A full 94 percent of the public supports the Equal Rights Amendment, including 99 percent, nearly unanimous support, among Millennials and Generation Z. 

Let us not forget that in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed with bipartisan super-majorities in both houses – Chambers of Congress and it enjoyed the strong support of President Nixon, who wrote in 1968 that, ‘The task of achieving Constitutional equality between the sexes is still not completed,’ and pointed out that all Republican National Conventions since 1940 have supported the long-time movement for equality. 

There is no reason why, today, after 80 years of Republican support, the ERA should not have full bipartisan support in the Congress.  The resolution on the Floor today will pave the way to passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which is one of the most important steps that we can take to affirm and ensure women's equality in America. 

The text of the Equal Rights Amendment states, ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.’  On the account of sex.  It recalls to mind the beautiful documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

Passing the Equal Rights Amendment will create essential avenues of legal recourse for people who face discrimination under the laws on the basis of sex.  It will ensure that the Supreme Court applies the same standard of review for sex discrimination cases as it applies to cases of discrimination based on race and national origin.  It will help Congress pass laws for better legal protections against injustice, including those related to sexual assault, domestic violence and paycheck fairness, or unfairness.  And it will confirm the rightful place of gender equality in all aspects of life. 

There are some who say the Equal Rights Amendment is not needed.  To them, I quote the late Justice Antonin Scalia who said – Justice Scalia said, ‘Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex.  The only issue is whether it prohibits it.  It does not.’  There are not – these are not just words.  This is the daily reality.  ‘It does not.’  This is the daily reality for American women who face inequality and injustice for so many arenas of life, from a massive wage gap, to pregnancy discrimination, to sexual harassment in the work place, to economic disparities that have worsened during the coronavirus. 

Passing this resolution and then the ERA will not only help women.  By unleashing the full economic potential of women – doing so will help families and boost our economy, all the while advancing justice and equality in America for everyone. 

With that, I urge a strong bipartisan vote on this strong step toward equality for women, progress for families and a stronger America, affirming the truth, Madam Speaker, that you have espoused: When women succeed, America succeeds.  With that, I, again, commend the leadership on this issue: the distinguished Chairman, the sponsor of the resolution, Jackie Speier, Carolyn Maloney, and yield back the balance of my time.