Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Judiciary Committee Hearing On The Equal Rights Amendment

Today’s hearing is the first Senate hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment since 1984

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “The Equal Rights Amendment: How Congress Can Recognize Ratification and Enshrine Equality in Our Constitution.”  The witnesses will testify to the necessity of enshrining gender equality into law and Congress’ role in ERA ratification.

Key quotes:

“It was a long time ago, many years, I was a young lawyer on my first assignment.  As a new graduate of Georgetown Law School, I returned home to my home state of Illinois where I was working in the Illinois State Senate for the Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon.  At the time, the lawmakers in my state were considering the ratification of a constitutional amendment that was first introduced many years before in 1923: it was called the Equal Rights Amendment.” 

“Well, here we are, a century after its first introduction, in 2023, and here I am, nearly 50 years after I started my first assignment.  It’s time to get the job done.  In fact, it is long overdue.”

“Today, the Committee is holding a hearing on finally—finally—enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution… The principle of equal justice under law is fundamental to who we are as a nation.  But unless that principle is protected in our Constitution, it is nothing more than words.”

“There is no room for uncertainty when it comes to protecting equal rights under law.  Sadly, that lesson was driven home last year by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and—for the first time in history—to take away a constitutional right from every woman in America.” 

“For years, we’ve heard well-known arguments against the ERA… Some have argued that it’s not necessary, others have argued that it is dangerous.  Others have claimed that the ERA and the Fourteenth Amendment are redundant.” 

“The reality is that the Supreme Court – which at the time was made up entirely of male justices – established a lower level of scrutiny for sex discrimination claims under the Fourteenth Amendment.  The ERA would finally change this.”

“When we have a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court who believe the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment was set in stone when it was ratified in 1868 – the ERA is far from redundant.  When a sitting justice on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, argues that the Court should reconsider constitutional protections for family planning and birth control – protections the Court recognized under the Fourteenth Amendment nearly 60 years ago – the ERA is far from redundant, far from unnecessary.”

“So now, the question for members of this Committee is straightforward: What kind of America do we want to leave our daughters and granddaughters?  A country in which their fundamental rights are safe and secure?  Or one in which the Constitution continues to fail to recognize fundamental equality on the basis of sex?  As a father and a grandfather, I think the answer is obvious.”

“Let’s live up to the promise of equal justice under law.  Join us in supporting this resolution to revoke the deadline on the ERA’s ratification.  There is no time limit on equality.” 

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.