Democrats have once again introduced legislation that would restart the process of ratifying a constitutional amendment specifically codifying equal protection based upon gender in the U.S. Constitution, but only one Republican has co-sponsored the measure.
Rep. Tom Reed, whose Southern Tier district includes the Village of Seneca Falls - the location of the first womens’ rights convention in 1848 - continues to be one of a few House Republicans who have publicly backed the Equal Rights Amendment.
"I represent Seneca Falls. We have a rich legacy of the women's rights movement in America and I think it is appropriate that the Constitution is clear, that women and men are created equally equally under the Constitution and we have equal rights," Reed said.
Reed is the only Republican co-sponsor out of 96 total on the legislation reintroduced by New York City Rep. Carolyn Maloney to restart the ratification process on what would be the 28th amendment to the Constitution. Mahoney has been lead co-sponsor since 1997.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey is the lead Senate sponsor.
“We cannot tolerate living in a country where women have to work harder, longer and for less money just to get ahead. We cannot stand by quietly while women are denied the American Dream and access to health care and education. We cannot accept living in a nation where the rights of women continue to go unprotected,” Menendez said. “Our mothers and daughters deserve the same rights, opportunity and respect as our fathers and sons, and that is why the Equal Rights Amendment must be enshrined in our Constitution and the law of the land.”
"I will continue to support it," Reed said. "Maybe I'm the only one on the Republican side that is willing to continue to advocate for that, but I do believe in it."
Last year, Virginia became the 38th state to pass language in support of an Equal Rights Amendment, though this was much later than the original timeline set up by Congress as part of the last major ratification effort in the 1970s.
Democrats had attempted to pass a bill that would have removed the timetable from the 70s, thus approving the amendment, although on relatively shaky legal grounds. Reed was one of five Republicans who voted in favor of that move last year and continues to co-sponsor a similar bill in this Congress.
While courts have generally held that the 14th Amendment covers gender- and sex-based discrimination, advocates for the ERA argue that nowhere in the Constitution does it mention that explicitly. The ERA would provide a stricter grounds for legal interpretation in cases of discrimination.
Republican support for the measure has moved back and forth over the years. Several statehouses passed their ratification measures with broad bipartisan support, though that appears to have dried up in Congress as of late.
"To be perfectly honest with you, I do not understand the objection to recognizing the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the constitution,” Reed said.
WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.