Legislative Branch

March Feature: the Equal Rights Amendment

Martha Griffiths (D-MI) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1955-1974. She was the first woman to serve on the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means and was instrumental in getting the prohibition of sex discrimination added to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Griffiths is also known for resurrecting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

The ERA was a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guaranteed equal rights under the law for Americans regardless of their sex. The ERA was first drafted in 1923 by suffragist Alice Paul. Following the enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote, Paul believed the ERA to be the next step in guaranteeing equal justice to all citizens.

From 1923 to 1970, some form of the ERA was introduced in every session of Congress. But, nearly every time that the ERA was introduced, it was held up in committee. In 1970, Griffiths filed a discharge petition to demand that the ERA be heard by the full House. A discharge petition, which requires the signatures of a majority of House members, forces proposed legislation out of committee so that it may be considered by the whole House of Representatives.

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