For nearly a century, millions of Americans have campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). That’s a proposed addition to the Constitution that would guarantee equal treatment of men and women. In January, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify, or approve, it—a key milestone. (At least 38 states must ratify an amendment for it to be added to the Constitution.)
But the ERA’s victory was only symbolic. The proposed addition is nearly 50 years old, and the deadline for ratifying it was in 1982. Battles over the deadline’s legality are being waged in court. The ERA was first proposed in Congress in 1923. Support for it grew in the 1960s during a movement to end discrimination against women. At the time, women were kept out of many jobs and many women couldn’t get credit cards. Congress approved the ERA in 1972. Supporters pushed for its ratification, including at a 1981 rally, above. But only 35 states approved it in time. In recent years, three more states ratified it.
Some people say the ERA is no longer needed, as other laws now help protect women’s rights. But most Americans support it and say the Constitution should specifically guarantee equality for women.