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1972

Equal Rights Amendment passed by Congress

On March 22, 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment is passed by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states for ratification.

First proposed by the National Woman’s political party in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was to provide for the legal equality of the sexes and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. More than four decades later, the revival of feminism in the late 1960s spurred its introduction into Congress. Under the leadership of U.S. Representative Bella Abzug of New York and feminists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, it won the requisite two-thirds vote from the U.S. House of Representatives in October 1971. In March 1972, it was approved by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states.

Hawaii was the first state to ratify what would have been the 27th Amendment, followed by some 30 other states within a year. However, during the mid-1970s, a conservative backlash against feminism eroded support for the Equal Rights Amendment, which ultimately failed to achieve ratification by the a requisite 38, or three-fourths, of the states.

Because of the rejection of the Equal Rights Amendment, sexual equality, with the notable exception of when it pertains to the right to vote, is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. However, in the late 20th century, the federal government and all states have passed considerable legislation protecting the legal rights of women. The Equal Rights Amendment, in its most recently proposed form, reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”

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