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Democratic Senators Yvanna Cancela and Majority Leader Aaron Ford speak at the Nevada State Legislature. February, 2017. Photo by David Calvert

Nevada has joined a lawsuit petitioning the archivist of the United States to recognize the state’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and to officially declare the ERA as the 28th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Attorney General Aaron Ford joins Virginia and Illinois’ Democratic attorneys general in the complaint. The state officials argue that the ERA has successfully passed in their states, meeting every legal requirement, and therefore the process should not be stalled in ratifying the amendment.

“Under the Equal Rights Amendment, the U.S. Constitution would finally provide an explicit guarantee of protection against discrimination based on sex,” Ford’s office said in a press release. “Once these protections are enshrined in the Constitution, they cannot be changed as easily as other laws. Additionally, the Equal Rights Amendment would provide clear judicial standards for deciding cases involving gender discrimination.” 

The original amendment was written in 1923, passed by Congress in 1972 and was ratified by the Legislature in 2017, when Ford was the Senate Majority Leader at that time. 

In order to be ratified into the U.S. Constitution, an amendment must be approved by 38 states’ legislatures, a milestone that was met earlier this week for the ERA when Virginia became the 38th state to approve the measure. But there have been legal questions about whether it counts because the deadline to ratify the ERA passed in 1982.

Section I 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.” 

Nevada state officials including Sen. Jacky Rosen, Rep. Dina Titus, Rep. Susie Lee and state Sen. Patricia Spearman all spoke in support of Ford’s decision to join the lawsuit in a press release sent by the attorney general’s office.  

“Ratifying the ERA is ultimately about enshrining equality in our founding document and making clear that gender discrimination has no place in this country,” Titus said in a statement. “Nevada is helping to lead the fight for women’s empowerment and I’m grateful to Attorney General Ford for standing up for what is right.” 

Governor Steve Sisolak also showed his support for Ford’s decision via Twitter: “I support [Attorney General Aaron Ford’s] decision to join the suit calling for the final adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “I was proud to see NV ratify the ERA & I look forward to when equal rights for women are officially part of the supreme Law of the Land.”

Opponents of the amendment worry the law could be used to overturn abortion restrictions. 

This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2020 to add a statement from Gov. Steve Sisolak.

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