Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to release ‘sobering’ budget plan next week: ‘It’s going to be very tough’ _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, asks questions about Rep. Chris Broadwater's, R-Hammond, HB-583 during the House session Thursday. The bill repeals the deadlines for a candidate to withdraw from an election allowing a candidate to withdraw from an election by filing notice of his withdrawal with the secretary of state.

Activists supporting the ratification of the decades-old federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) are eyeballing Louisiana to be the final state needed to jump on board, particularly as the state’s legislative session began Monday.

The ERA — a constitutional amendment that would grant women the same legal protections as men — needs one more state’s approval for it to become part of the U.S. Constitution. HCR2 by state Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, would make Louisiana the 38th state needed for the amendment’s ratification.

“Women do not have constitutional equality,” pro-ERA activist Angela Adkins said. “The only guarantee that women have in our Constitution is the right to vote.”

Congress originally passed the ERA in 1972, sending it to the states for passage. Five years later, 35 states had ratified the amendment, but a conservative opposition movement caused any further progress to come to a halt.

The renewed push nationwide comes nearly 40 years after the ratification deadline set by Congress, amid the #MeToo movement and Women’s Marches across the country. Nevada ratified the act in 2017, and Illinois followed in 2018.

Louisiana is one of 13 states which have not ratified the amendment. Proponents say it would be a step forward in ending gender workplace discrimination, eliminating the gender pay gap and decreasing violence against women.

“Including equality based on sex explicitly as a part of the U.S. Constitution will highlight, to everyone in Louisiana and our nation, that the fight for women's rights must continue until these rights are a reality for all of us,” Adkins said.

Opponents of the amendment, such as Louisiana Right to Life (LARTL) say it would threaten the constitutionality of abortion restrictions.

“For years, pro-abortion groups have used the ERA successfully as a tool to expand abortion-on-demand and strike down common-sense pro-life laws,” the group said in a statement.

Some cite the expired Congressional deadline as another reason the ERA shouldn’t be ratified, while proponents say Congress only needs to extend or repeal that deadline.

Other hurdles include five states that have since rescinded their ratification of the amendment. It is legally unclear whether a state can take back its ratification once passed.

The LA Ratify ERA Coalition, which Adkins founded last summer, will host a lobbying day at the Capitol Tuesday with the goal of educating lawmakers and the public about the ERA. The event will include a march to the Capitol beginning at 8 a.m., lunch and lobbying in the rotunda. Adkins said the coalition is expecting 150-200 people to attend.

“The United States leads the world in policymaking,” Adkins said. “If we set an example that women are equal, we can change the way that women are treated around the globe, not just in the United States.”