SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. John Curtis was one of only five Republicans who voted Thursday to extend the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, joining all House Democrats, including Rep. Ben McAdams, the state’s only Democrat in Congress.
Utah GOP Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart both voted against extending the deadline that expired in 1982.
The 232-183 House vote was seen as a largely symbolic attempt to revive the amendment prohibiting discrimination based on sex, since the measure is unlikely to be considered in the Senate and is being challenged in court.
Curtis and McAdams both indicated there’s more work to be done on equality.
“It is past time that women are guaranteed equal opportunities under the Constitution and I believe it is imperative that Congress work to fix existing gaps in the law putting women at a disadvantage,” Curtis said in a statement, adding he knew “full well there are still difficult questions as we strive for equality” when he cast his vote.
“However, I refuse to believe that treating women as our equals comes as a tradeoff for traditional Utah values,” said the representative of the 3rd Congressional District that includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties as well as southeastern Utah. “In fact, I believe it’s actually a deep part of who we are in Utah.”
McAdams in a statement said that his vote to extend the ratification deadline for the ERA that expired in 1982 would not end discrimination on the basis of sex, but would continue the conversation. He cited his hopes for his own children as well as Utah’s history.
“I’m a dad of four, including twin teenagers — a boy and a girl — who all dream about the life they’ll build for themselves. I want for them a world rich with opportunity — where in no case is a door open to my sons but not my daughter,” McAdams said.
“Utah’s history is a legacy of strong, independent women leaders, shaped by our pioneer heritage to build prosperity in our Western home,” he said. “From Eliza R. Snow and Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, to Aileen Clyde and Olene Walker, Utah has been blessed by women’s efforts to strengthen our communities.”
I refuse to believe that treating women as our equals comes as a tradeoff for traditional Utah values.
–Rep John Curtis, R-Utah
Besides Curtis of Utah, the Republicans who voted for the deadline extension were from Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The ERA was approved by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification within seven years, a deadline that was later extended to 1982. But it wasn’t until Virginia lawmakers voted last month for ratification that the ERA reached the 38 states needed.
The Justice Department has said that vote came too late, and a lawsuit is underway. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, long a champion of the ERA, said Monday that she’d “like it to start over” because of the controversy over later ratifications and decisions by some states to rescind their previous ratification.
The latest attempt to add Utah to the list of states ratifying the ERA, a resolution sponsored by House Minority Caucus Manager Karen Kwan, D-Murray, has yet to be heard in the Utah Legislature this session.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposed the ERA in the 1970s, and a church spokesman clarified in December that this position has “been consistent for more than 40 years.”
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, suggested the amendment could be replaced with a provision in the Utah Constitution stating that male and female citizens “shall enjoy equally all civil, political and religious rights and privileges.”