Murkowski votes with Democrats to advance Equal Rights Amendment but measure stalls in Senate

women hold an era yes sign
ERA supporters were among those at a women’s march in Los Angeles in 2019. (Luke Harold/Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voted with Democrats on a resolution Thursday to add equal rights for women and men to the Constitution, but the measure failed to get enough votes to advance to a final vote.

“‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,'” she said on the Senate floor before the vote. “It’s as simple as that … . That’s the full substance of the Equal Rights Amendment.”

Murkowski said equal treatment between men and women should not be controversial and cited polls showing the vast majority of Americans support it.

“I think most people in this country believe that it’s already a part of the Constitution, that it’s already a protection under it,” she said.

But, to show that it’s not, she cited 2010 comments by then-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who said the Constitution doesn’t prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.

Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republican senators to vote for the resolution, bringing the yeas to 51. It takes 60 to overcome a filibuster, so the measure is stalled.

The Equal Rights Amendment has a long history. Congress passed it in 1972 but 38 states had to ratify it, and that didn’t happen until 2020, nearly 40 years past the deadline. 

The measure in the Senate Thursday, which Murkowski co-sponsored, would lift the deadline.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, voted no. He did not grant an interview to explain why. In an emailed statement, his spokesman said Sullivan has always worked to support women’s rights but believes the resolution has “serious constitutional infirmities.” 

“Fortunately, equal protection for all is already guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment,” Sullivan’s spokesman said in the email.

Advocates on both sides have also argued that the Equal Rights Amendment could lay the foundation for a constitutional right to abortion.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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