RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Three Democratic state attorneys general sued a U.S. government official Thursday, seeking to force him to recognize Virginia’s recent vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and adopt the measure in the Constitution.
The lawsuit filed against the archivist of the United States comes after the National Archives and Records Administration said this week that David Ferriero would “take no action to certify the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment.”
Virginia on Monday became the 38th state to ratify the measure that supporters say will guarantee women equal rights under the law. Constitutional amendments must be ratified by three-quarters of the states, or 38. But the ERA’s future is uncertain, in part because of a ratification deadline enacted by Congress that passed decades ago.
Many legal observers have long expected the issue to make its way to the Supreme Court. Thursday’s lawsuit brought by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued that the deadline, which was first set for 1979 and later extended to 1982, is not binding.
“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 said.
The press office of the National Archives and Records Administration referred a request for comment to the Department of Justice, which declined comment.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, argued that U.S. laws do not give the archivist the power to decide whether to certify an amendment. They contend the archivist’s duty to certify the amendment is “mandatory and purely ministerial.”
In declining to certify the ERA, the archives said it was following advice from the U.S. Department of Justice, which issued an opinion this month saying it was too late for states to sign off because of the deadline. The department said the amendment process must begin anew.