After failed Senate vote, Murkowski says the Equal Rights Amendment remains 'long overdue'

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Apr. 28—WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate this week failed to pass a resolution to remove barriers to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, 100 years since the amendment was first proposed in Congress. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who led the effort to pass the measure, expressed disappointment after the vote.

"It is just long overdue," Murkowski said of the ERA in an interview Thursday. "The simple fact that we do not have embedded in our Constitution equal protections for women under the law is, I think, wrong and needs to be addressed."

Murkowski spearheaded a resolution to advance the Equal Rights Amendment with Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. She is a rare Republican advocate for ratifying the ERA, which would codify equal rights for women in the U.S. Constitution and ban discrimination based on sex.

Her support for the amendment butts up against most members of her party, some of whom have fretted that the ERA could open up abortion availability and transgender women's access to spaces like locker rooms. Other Republicans raised concerns about the precedent Murkowski's resolution would set for the constitutional amendment process.

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Though a required 38 states, including Alaska, have ratified the ERA, the amendment has been stalled for years because of a 1982 ratification deadline, and some states have withdrawn their ratification. Murkowski's resolution would have lifted that deadline and recognize that three-quarters of states have ratified the bill.

Republican opposition won out Thursday as Murkowski's resolution fizzled 51 to 47 without garnering enough GOP support to meet a 60-vote threshold. Maine Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican to join Murkowski in voting for the resolution.

"This should not be something that women across this country say, 'I don't recognize my party if they don't recognize my equality under the law,' " Murkowski said when asked about Republican opposition to the ERA. "This should be something that we have incorporated into our Constitution, and I'm looking forward forward to the day when we actually do that."

Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan voted against the measure. A spokesperson said in a statement that Sullivan "will continue to work to ensure the rights of women." However, Thursday's resolution "has serious constitutional infirmities in the view of numerous courts and judges — including the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg," the statement from Sullivan's office said.

Ginsberg, a longtime advocate for the ERA, said in 2020 that she would like to see the ratification process restart.

Democratic supporters of the ERA tied Thursday's vote to what they see as the recent rolling-back of women rights. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, pointed to decisions limiting access to the abortion drug mifepristone and the Supreme Court overturning constitutional abortion protections last summer as reasons to support the bill.

"In 2023, we should move forward to ratify the ERA with all due haste because if you look at the terrible things happening to women's rights in this country, it's clear we must act," Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. "To the horror of hundreds of millions of American people, women in America have far fewer rights today than they did even a year ago."

However, Murkowski — who supports abortion rights — said, "What we're what we're talking about here is not abortion. It is about a woman's equality under the law."