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Illinois, Virginia, And Nevada Sue To Force National Archives To Recognize Equal Rights Amendment As Part Of Constitution

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is joining counterparts in two other states in a lawsuit seeking to force the federal government to officially recognize the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the Constitution, after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify it.

"It is past time that we ensure women across the country have the constitutional equality to which they are entitled, and I look forward to my daughter — who aspires to study law — being able to one day, when sworn into the bar, take an oath to promise to support a constitution that recognizes her right to equality under the law," Raoul said in a statement.

The federal lawsuit filed Thursday by Raoul and the attorneys general from Virginia and Nevada claims David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, has no choice but to officially ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would prohibit discrimination based on sex.

"After generations of effort, the women of this country are entitled to their rightful place in the Constitution. This Court should compel the Archivist to carry out his statutory duty of recognizing the complete and final adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment," the lawsuit stated.

Earlier this month, the National Archives and Records Administration announced it would not certify the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment "unless otherwise directed by a final court order," due to a legal opinion from the Justice Department stating that Congress had set a deadline to ratify the ERA by June 30, 1982.

However, the lawsuit filed by Illinois, Virginia, and Nevada – the last three states to vote to ratify the ERA – argues Congress has no authority under the Constitution to set a deadline to ratify proposed amendments.

"Article V does not empower Congress to dictate when a State may consider—much less ultimately ratify—a proposed amendment. The Constitution grants Congress two specific powers regarding amendment: (1) to 'propose Amendments to this Constitution'; and (2) to designate whether the 'Mode of Ratification' will be through state legislatures or via conventions," the lawsuit states.

Article V empowers Congress to propose amendments to the Constitution by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. If approved by Congress, an amendment would then have to be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states to be officially recognized

Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA earlier this year, meeting that threshold 48 years after Congress passed it. Illinois ratified the amendment in 2018, and Nevada ratified it in 2017.

"We now have this historic opportunity to ensure that equal rights regardless of sex are added to the Constitution. Virginians have made it clear that it is their will that the ERA be ratified and I now have the great honor of continuing that fight to make sure that gender equality is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing equality for generations of women to come," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed by the three states Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C. A court date has not yet been set.

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