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What is the Equal Rights Amendment?

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Quick Answer

The Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, was a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States that was intended to guarantee legal equality for women. The amendment never received enough votes from the states for ratification.

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Full Answer

The ERA stated that neither the U.S. government nor any state government could deny or abridge legal equality of rights on account of sex. It also stipulated that Congress had the power to enforce these rights and that two years after ratification the amendment would come into effect.

Congress passed the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote in 1919. In 1923, suffragist leader Alice Paul proposed the Equal Rights Amendment to ensure that other rights of women were respected. The ERA was introduced in every session of Congress in ensuing decades but never received enough support to bring it to a vote. In 1972, it finally passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congress gave it a seven-year ratification deadline, during which time it had to be approved by at least 38 out of the 50 states. Congress later extended the deadline for ratification to 1982, but the final tally at that time still fell three states short. From that time until the end of 2013, the ERA has continued to be introduced at each session of Congress.

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