March 22, 1972 – Equal Rights Amendment for Women Passed by Congress

On this date in history, the Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would have banned discrimination based on sex. The E.R.A. was subsequently sent to the states for ratification, but could not muster the needed three-fourths approval.

The amendment was first drafted by the women’s rights leader Alice Paul in 1923, three years after the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage. Variations of the amendment were proposed through the years, but never passed. Nevertheless, the constitutions of 22 states provide either inclusive or partial guarantees of equal rights on the basis of sex.

Alice Paul Toasting Tennessee's Ratification of the 19th Amendment, August 1920

Alice Paul Toasting Tennessee’s Ratification of the 19th Amendment, August 1920

Women’s groups are still working on eventual passage of the E.R.A. The 14th Amendment is not considered adequate protection against discrimination for women, especially since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia went on the record arguing that the Constitution does not provide this protection, and if “society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey, we have things called legislatures.”

Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia


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