Click play for audio version of this story
A resolution in Congress to extend the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment has six co-sponsors from the New Jersey delegation: Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill), Donald Norcross (D-Camden), Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Albio Sires (D-West New York) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing).
The ERA was approved by Congress in 1972 required ratification by 38 states by 1979. It fell 3 states short, even with an extension to 1982.
Renewed interest in the ERA came when Nevada ratified it anyway in 2017 and Illinois in 2018. Since the Virginia Senate has already voted to ratify. Should Democrats win control of Virginia’s lower house this fall – it’s currently a 51-49 Republican majority – it’s possible to see the amendment ratified, if Congress extends the deadline.
In February of this year, a ratification vote by the Virginia House of Delegates deadlocked 50-50.
It’s not immediately clear if such an extension would hold up to legal challenges.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton), the lone Republican congressman from New Jersey, said in 1983 that he was a strong supporter of the ERA, but voted against an extension because the House would not agree to amendments that address abortion, women in combat, civil service preference to veterans, or the handling of private schools.
The 1983 extension vote fell six votes short. Of New Jersey’s fourteen House members, just Smith and Rep. Edwin Forsythe (R-Moorestown) voted against the measure.
The rest of the New Jersey delegation have not co-sponsored the extension resolution: Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), Andy Kim (D-Marlton), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark), Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Middle); and U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker.
The U.S. House of Representatives originally approved the constitutional amendment on October 12, 1971 by a 324-24 vote. Thirteen New Jersey House members voted yes: Reps. John Hunt (R-Pitman), James Howard (D-Spring Lake Heights), Frank Thompson (D-Trenton), Peter Frelinghuysen (R-Harding), William Widnall (R-Ridgewood), Bob Roe (D-Wayne), Henry Helstoski (D-East Rutherford), Peter Rodino (D-Newark), Joseph Minish (D-West Orange), Cornelius Gallagher (D-Bayonne), Dominick Daniels (D-Jersey City), Forsythe, and the only woman in the New Jersey delegation, Florence Dwyer (R-Elizabeth).
The only no vote from New Jersey was cast by Rep. Charles Sandman (R-Cape May Court House).
The ERA was passed by the Senate on March 23, 1972. Both of New Jersey’s U.S. Senators voted yes: Republican Clifford Case and Democrat Harrison Williams.
Helped by the time difference, the Hawaii Legislature voted to ratify on the same day.
New Jersey became the 12th state to ratify the ERA on April 17, 1972. The Assembly voted 62-4 in favor of ratification. The Senate had voted for ratification on March 28, 34-0. Both houses were controlled by Republicans at the time.
Assemblywoman Ann Klein (D-Morris Township) voted for ratification, even though she opposed sending women into combat. Klein said she was equally opposed to sending men to fight.