Pair of S.C. lawmakers push for Equal Rights Amendment ratification vote

Only one more state needs to ratify the amendment

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —A Constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for men and women could become a topic of debate in the State House.

Even though it’s been nearly fifty years since the Equal Rights Amendment fell into the hands of state legislatures, a pair of South Carolina lawmakers are filing a joint resolution to encourage ratification and make the amendment an official part of the Constitution. 

The last time South Carolina lawmakers discussed ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment was back in 1972, when it only passed in the House. In order for a state to ratify a Constitutional amendment, both the House and Senate need to vote in favor of it.

Some who encouraged its ratification fifty years ago say they are optimistic a change is on the horizon.

“It’s exciting because this is a new day, this is a new generation. I have talked with some of my friends here who have been here with me since the 1970’s, and it’s great to see folks with lots of hope, and I hope that will make a difference,” said Keller Barron of the League of Women Voters.

Democratic Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg County) first filed a resolution to vote on ratification back in January 19, but got a Republican ally across the hallway in Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort County).

Sen. Davis says some of his Republican colleagues say the language of the amendment is too broad. However, he says firmly establishing equal rights on the basis of sex in the Constitution prevents changing opinions from the Supreme Court.

“All rights by their nature are subject to some regulation. But the caveat is this: that those regulations are always, in a just society that values freedom, subjected to strict scrutiny. Right now, discrimination based on sex is not subject to that scrutiny. This Equal Rights Amendment ratification would do so,” said Davis.

Three-fourths of all states have to ratify an amendment before it can be included in the Constitution.

37 states have already thrown their support behind the amendment, but some lawmakers say South Carolina is on the doorstep to history.

“We’ve had two additional states come forward and say, ‘you know what y’all it’s time’ and the bottom line is this is the 21st century. Seems to me, we want to give some thought to moving South Carolina into the 21st century,” said Rep. Cobb-Hunter.

When asked about the Equal Rights Amendment, Governor Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) said it would have meant more if it was ratified fifty years ago.

“A lot of things have changed, a lot of things have improved. I’m not sure that this is a big issue at this time,” Gov. McMaster said.

Cobb-Hunter says ratification of an amendment by a state’s legislature does not require the Governor’s signature.

If South Carolina’s lawmakers do choose to ratify the amendment, Senator Davis says the legislature will review all statutes related to gender discrimination and adjust them in order to comply with the Constitution.

He says that process could take up to two years.

North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida are among the states that have not voted to ratify the amendment, although Virginia lawmakers are close to making their state the 38th necessary to put this in the Constitution.

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