Legislative lawyer rejects argument ERA dead because deadline expired
Legislative Chief Litigation Counsel Kevin Powers on Tuesday told lawmakers claims the Equal Rights Amendment is dead because the deadline to ratify it passed in 1982 are incorrect.
That argument was made by a dozen witnesses in the Senate and Assembly hearings on the ERA. They said the deadline for 38 states to ratify the amendment expired and the amendment can’t be brought back before Congress unless the entire process is restarted.
Shawn Meehan of Guard the Constitution said he has devoted more than three years to learning, defending and educating others about Article V of the U.S. Constitution. He said an Idaho court ruled the issue no longer exists because of the deadline. He and other speakers including Janine Hansen of Eagle Forum and Republican Party Vice Chairman Jim Degraffenreid said if Nevada passes ERA this session, it would be the first state to ratify the proposed amendment because the ratifications by the other 35 states more than 30 years ago are no longer valid.
Asked to explain the constitutional status of ERA, Powers told the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee the decision whether to recognize Nevada’s decision and the ratifications by all those other states is up to Congress.
“Congress has the exclusive power to determine whether or not to accept a state ratification after the deadline,” Powers said. “It’s up to Congress to decide.”
He said Congress’s decision, either way, would be “finally and without question upheld by the Judicial Branch.”
Powers also said the arguments the ERA would force open the doors to unrestricted and publicly funded abortion don’t hold water since a woman’s right to abortion “is currently protected by the 14th Amendment under the due process clause.”
“This proposal would not affect that right in any way shape or form,” he said. “What this does is impose strict scrutiny on laws that distinguish on account of sex.”
He said the impact on abortion law would be marginal because abortion is protected by the 14th Amendment.
The analysis came during the Assembly hearing on the proposed amendment that has already been approved by the Senate.
This is the ERA’s fourth trip through the Nevada Legislature. It passed the Assembly in 1973 and 1975 but was defeated in the Senate. It passed the Senate in 1977 but was defeated in the Assembly.
The committee is expected to vote on the ERA resolution in the near future.