Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution under bills filed in both the state House and the state Senate Tuesday.
Congress sent the ERA to the states in 1972. The amendment, which would guarantee equal rights for women, eventually died after it fell three states short of the 38 it needed to ratify it. North Carolina was one of 15 states that declined to ratify the amendment at the time.
Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, and Rep. Carla Cunningham, D-Mecklenburg, are the primary sponsors of bills filed Tuesday, but Cunningham acknowledged during a news conference that the measures may not be received well in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, particularly because the deadline for ratification has passed by several decades.
Present-day supporters of the ERA often point to a legal analysis published in 1997 that suggests how Congress could circumvent the ERA's expiration date. Its authors argue precedents regarding time limits in previous amendment ratifications and the potential for Congress to adjust the initial time limit on the ERA’s ratification make the amendment viable if they can get three more states to ratify it.
"There is now a desire and enthusiasm to do something that is significant," McKissick said. "Perhaps this is the point in time we can capitalize on it."
The main points of contention over the ERA deal less with acknowledging women's equality and more with the what opponents see as the amendment's collateral implications. For example, opponents fear the amendment would mean women would have to register with Selective Service along with men, courts and legislators could view it as giving women the right to abortion and businesses could be pressed to immediately raise salaries for their female workers.
"If you hear people talk about, 'If we pass it, it's going to have a major impact on business and what they have to pay,' then so be it," McKissick said. "If that's the criteria to use for evaluation, I guess they would have never abolished slavery either."