Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a long-time supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, suggested Monday night that the deadline to ratify the measure as a constitutional amendment has expired and that the decades long effort must start anew.
“I would like to see a new beginning,” Ginsburg told an audience at Georgetown University Law Center.
“I’d like it to start over,” she added.
Ginsburg was responding to a question from the moderator of the event, Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who asked whether there would ever be an Equal Rights Amendment on the federal level.
The ERA would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality for women under the Constitution.
Ginsburg’s comments seemed to throw cold water on a recent effort by Virginia and other states who argue that after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment last month, the states had met the threshold necessary to change the Constitution.
Nodding in response to the question about the dispute, Ginsburg said “there is too much controversy about late comers,” and she added that Virginia’s move came “long after the deadline passed.”
Opponents of the effort, including the Department of Justice, argue that the deadline to ratify the amendment expired decades ago and that some states – among the necessary 38 – have since rescinded their support.
First introduced in the 1920s, the ERA finally passed and was submitted to the states in 1972. A deadline for ratification was set for 1979. It was later extended to 1982.
Ginsburg – speaking at an event to honor the centennial of the 19th Amendment – reiterated that she believes an Equal Rights Amendment should be ultimately added to the Constitution.
“I would like to show my grandaughters that the equal citizenship stature of men and women is a fundamental human right,” she said.
Her comments on the Equal Rights Amendment bolster arguments made last month by the Department of Justice in a legal opinion.
Steven Engel, the assistant attorney general of the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in response to an ongoing lawsuit that his office had concluded that “Congress had the constitutional authority to impose a deadline on the ratification of the ERA and, because that deadline has expired, the ERA Resolution is no longer pending before the States.”
Ginsburg oftens speaks about the ERA.
“I hope someday it will be put back in the political hopper, starting over again, collecting the necessary number of states to ratify it, ” she said last year at a separate event at Georgetown.
Ginsburg on Monday also spoke about her health and the fact that she is a four-time cancer survivor.
“It does give you a zest for life that you didn’t have before,” she said, adding that “every day is precious.” She said that she hadn’t missed ruling on any case due to illness, although she acknowledged there was one month last term when she couldn’t physically be at court so she had to listen to oral arguments later.
“My colleagues rallied around me and helped me get through some very trying days,” she said.
At the hour long event, Ginsburg also noted that she’s been “flooded” with invitations lately.
“I can be getting an award every day of the week,” she joked.
She also remarked that she receives judicial collars – referred to as jabots – at least once a week in the mail. On the bench, she always wears a collar, usually made of lace, over her judicial robes.
“I get two things,” she said, “collars and scrunchies.”
Scrunchies refer to the velvet band the 86-year-old justice uses to keep her hair tied back.