Nevada Democrats push to ratify ERA

Nevada is pushing to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, something no state has done in four decades.

Dusting off a debate about whether to enshrine women's rights in the Constitution is of questionable value to the amendment's prospects, analysts say. But supporters say that doesn't mean it's a meaningless gesture, and that its revival shows the influence of the women's rights movement in 2017.

Even if Nevada becomes the 36th state to ratify the amendment, its entry into the Constitution is a long shot. The deadline to ratify the amendment was in 1982. And even if Congress reopened it, it's not clear any other state is interested in getting on board.

Republicans, who have have traditionally been opposed to the amendment, control a majority of state governments and Congress.

Debbie Walsh, director of the nonpartisan Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, said women are getting involved politically in a way the nation hasn't seen since the feminism movement of the '60s and '70s, Walsh added.

Women's marches crowded cities across the world the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. Political groups like Emily's List that advocate for abortion rights fielded hundreds of requests from potential candidates. The Center for American Women in Politics' own nonpartisan campaign training program has been overwhelmed by applicants. "We had to find a bigger venue for the program," Walsh said.

Many women, especially on the left, have expressed anxiety now that Washington is controlled by Republicans who are opposed to abortion and who want to cut off funding for national women's health care clinic Planned Parenthood.

"The morning after the 2016 election, I was concerned that women might crawl under the bedsheets and just try to recover," Walsh said, referring to the defeat of the first female major-party candidate. "But here is this real sense that women can't sit on the sidelines. I think they've gotten, in a different kind of way, that elections have consequences and therefore they have to step up."

Nevada Democrats swam against the Republican tide in November and recaptured both state legislative chambers. The party's leaders now view their state -- one of just 14 where Democrats control the state legislature -- as a counterweight to a conservative Washington.

"I get giddy every time I think about the fact we have such a great opportunity in this state," Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, a Democrat, told a Washington Post blog in January.

Changing the Constitution is challenging, but Equal Rights Amendment supporters came close. In 1972, after a decade or so of debate, Congress passed it and sent it to the states for ratification. Under one process to change or add a constitutional amendment, 38 states -- or three-quarters -- must ratify it, whether via their legislatures or a state convention.

Congress gave the states 10 years for 38 states to get that done. In the end, 35 did.

A Section on 03/05/2017

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