A poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released last week showed 3-to-1 support among Americans for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

You remember the ERA, don’t you? It was passed by Congress — by wide margins in both houses — in the early 1970s, when the concept of women’s liberation was flourishing throughout the country, and sent to the states for ratification.

The operative language in the amendment: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Government 101 refresher: This country’s Founding Fathers, with good reason, made it quite difficult to amend the Constitution. An amendment requires approval of three-fourths of state legislatures — that’s 38 in a 50-state country — to be enacted.

Congress set a March 22, 1979, deadline for that to happen. It didn’t; only 35 states had ratified the amendment, which drew intense opposition from conservative groups. They contended that there already were plenty of laws and court decisions on record to guarantee equality between men and women, and that passing the ERA would eliminate traditional gender roles, mean female military personnel in combat, spawn same-sex restrooms and marriages, and irrevocably open the door to taxpayer-funded abortions. (We can only imagine the reaction if they’d had a crystal ball.)

The deadline was extended to June 30, 1982. Ratification still didn’t happen; the total remained stuck on 35.

It seemed to be the end of the situation; no one raised an eyebrow when Nevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018 ratified the amendment.

Everything changed last month, however, when Virginia’s Legislature, now controlled by Democrats with an activist bent, became the 38th state to approve the ERA. Also in February, the House of Representatives — also controlled by Democrats with an activist bent — voted to repeal the 1982 deadline and theoretically clear the way for the amendment to become law.

Of course, that legislation has zero chance of escaping the Senate. Also, five states that had passed the ERA have backtracked and rescinded their approval, a situation that ultimately would have to be worked out in the courts.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed a federal lawsuit, which his counterparts in Louisiana and South Dakota have joined, seeking to have the door slammed on the ERA.

We’ve often poked at state officials for their constant and often fruitless challenges to the feds, and Marshall in announcing his suit painted a hyperbolic picture of the ERA being used to enact a “far-left agenda” and “expand the frontiers” of what can be considered as gender-based discrimination.

However, we think this effort is on much more solid ground than some of those quixotic ones.

We’re not dismissing the reality — the absolute given — that men and women are equal and the law should recognize and treat them as such. The AP/NORC poll found bipartisan support for an ERA (90% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans).

We simply have trouble with changing the rules three decades after the fact to ensure an outcome that wasn’t achieved within the specified parameters. We would feel the same way about anyone pushing such a cause célébre, regardless of its significance to or the philosophies held by its advocates.

If there’s to be an ERA, its advocates need to start the process from square one. We think we’re in good company with that assertion; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, heroine to liberals and feminists, has said the same thing.

The Gadsden Times

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