A group of House Democrats was expelled on April 27 while protesting as Senate Republicans voted to block a joint resolution to remove the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution.
The sergeant at arms was called to restore order and expel protesters, among whom were Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who didn’t have authorization to be on the Senate floor.
The protest was led by Pressley and Bush, who co-chair the Congressional Equal Rights Amendment Caucus. They’re also both members of the progressive “squad” made up of House lawmakers, including Reps. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).
“Gender equality can’t wait. There should be no deadline for that,” Pressley said.
“We deserve for gender equality to be enshrined in the Constitution,” she added. “We’re going to go in here, look at our Senate colleagues, and demand they do the right thing by the women of this country.”
Bush explained that the group was “right outside the Senate chamber” while the vote took place inside.
“So, the House is standing, saying to the Senate: ‘We need you to make the ERA happen today. ERA now,” Bush said in the video.
In a follow-up video shared by Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) following their protest, the congresswoman explained that the group was being expelled after they marched from the House to the Senate and protested inside the chamber.
“I’m getting kicked out. I’m not even in the area. We have a lot of rules around here, but listen we’re getting expelled out of here, we just left where they don’t have enough votes to pass the ERA,” Lee said.
In the post accompanying the video, Lee said it was a “shame that 100 years after the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced, we are still fighting for gender equality in our Constitution.”
After being expelled, the group of House Democrats chanted: “What do we want? ERA! When do we want it? Now!” as they marched to a press conference outside.
The Senate was voting on whether or not to remove the deadline for ratifying the resolution proposing the constitutional amendment, which would grant equal legal rights to all citizens regardless of sex.
The proposed joint resolution (pdf) was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 24 by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). It sought to remove the deadline for the ratification of the ERA to the U.S. Constitution.
The ERA was a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was first drafted in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1973. Its purpose is to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It came with the stipulation that the amendment must be ratified within seven years.
The text of the amendment states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
After being passed by Congress, the amendment was subsequently sent to the states for ratification. However, the amendment failed to gain the necessary support of three-fourths of the states within the 1978 deadline set by Congress, and as a result, it has not been added to the Constitution.
Owing to insufficient time to meet the required number of ratifications, Congress voted to extend the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to June 30, 1982. However, despite the extension, the amendment was not ratified until 2020 when Virginia finally approved it. Unfortunately, the amendment’s ratification deadline had already passed, and it is yet to become law.
The defeated joint resolution sought to remove the deadline for ratification of the ERA, thereby allowing the amendment to be added to the Constitution if it is ratified by three-fourths of the states at any time in the future.
The resolution fell short of the required 60 votes to invoke cloture despite two Republicans, namely Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Murkowski, voting in favor of it alongside 49 Democrats on April 27.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) expressed disappointment at the outcome but promised to continue the fight. He switched his vote to “no” so that he could bring up the bill at a later time, and he stated at a press conference outside the Capitol that supporters of the amendment would keep fighting until they succeed.
“Women are under assault politically in so many ways, whether it’s the right to choose, or women’s health care, or discrimination, or so many other things,” he asserted. “It’s about time America said no to all of that.
“It’s about time America said no to the MAGA majority on the Supreme Court, that we need protections for women,” he added.