Attorneys general seek summary judgment in ERA lawsuit

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Three Democratic state attorneys general asked a court Wednesday to declare that the Equal Rights Amendment is valid and part of the U.S. Constitution.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford made the request in a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit they filed in January against the archivist of the United States.

The lawsuit was brought just days after Virginia became the key 38th state to ratify the amendment and the National Archives and Records Administration announced Archivist David Ferriero would not certify it.

Wednesday’s motion also asks the court to order Ferriero to publish the ERA as part of the Constitution and declare that his refusal to do so violates federal law.

Congress passed the measure that supporters say will guarantee women equal rights under the law in 1972, sending it to the states for ratification. Constitutional amendments must be ratified by three-quarters of the states, or 38.

Congress set a ratification deadline of 1979 that was later extended to 1982, but it went by with three more states still needed. Nevada and Illinois became the 36th and 37th states to ratify in 2017 and 2018.

The attorneys general argue in their lawsuit that the deadline is not binding.

The ERA “has satisfied the constitutional requirements to be added to the United States Constitution, and the Archivist has a nondiscretionary duty under federal law to publish and certify the Equal Rights Amendment as valid,” the motion said.

The plaintiffs separately filed a brief Wednesday opposing a motion for summary judgment that five other intervening states — Alabama, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Tennessee — have sought in the case. Two of those states never ratified the ERA, and three say they have rescinded their ratifications.

The Trump administration has previously asked the court to dismiss the case.

The U.S. Department of Justice issued an opinion in January saying it was too late for states to sign off because of the deadline. The department said the amendment process must begin all over again.

Many legal observers have long expected the issue to make its way to the Supreme Court.

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