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ERA backers hope to save 1975 ratification as effort to declare it void moves to the House

By Brayden ZenkerNDNAEF

BISMARCK – After defeat in the Senate, supporters of North Dakota’s 1975 ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution plan to continue the fight in the House of Representatives.

SCR 4010 declares that state ratification of the ERA 46 years ago was only valid through 1979, the deadline set by Congress. Ratification by 38 states was required, but only 35 states had approved the amendment by that date.

The Senate vote Feb. 22 was 29-17 for passage of the resolution.

Thomasine Heitkamp, president of ERA NOW, a Facebook group that advocates for the ratification and adoption of the ERA, said they and other advocacy groups plan to lobby House members to reject the resolution. 

Several state legislators have spoken out against the resolution on the ERA NOW Facebook page, including Sen. JoNell Bakke, D-Grand Forks, who said she was furious about the Senate vote. She encouraged constituents to “flood” House members with emails urging a “no” vote on the resolution. 

Bakke also suggested writing to Gov. Doug Burgum, asking him to veto the legislation if it passes in the House. 

Rep. Zachary Ista, D-Grand Forks, said he was disappointed when the Senate “inexplicably voted to turn the clock back to 1975 with its passage of SCR 4010.” 

During the Senate debate on SCR 4010, Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, said the message of the ERA is “we need to promote equal rights between men and women,” and that repealing ratification “sends the wrong message.”

But Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg – a sponsor of the resolution – said that voting yes does not mean that a legislator doesn’t believe in equal rights. 

Myrdal also said some current ERA advocates have a special agenda. Adoption of the amendment to the U.S. Constitution “means a right to abortion through the ninth month,” Myrdal said. “It’s no longer about women’s rights.” 

Myrdal and others also argued that the question of ratification – raised by the recent actions of additional states – is moot because of the passage of time. She said advocates are free to begin the process again, and if another amendment were sent to the states she would be willing to discuss it.

Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, countered that the resolution is a “sharp stick in the eye” of everyone who worked to make laws fair for men and women. 

“It is not about abortion, it is not about locker rooms, it is not about bathrooms,” Lee said. “What has stayed the same are the fear-mongering, paranoia of special interest groups and misleading statements about the Equal Rights Amendment.” 

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