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The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972 and submitted to the states for ratification. Congress imposed (or tried to impose?) a 7-year time limit on ratification.

There was precedent for such a time limit. Each of the 18th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd Amendments includes a section like this:

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.

The 21st says "conventions" rather than "legislatures". At least one other proposed amendment included a similar section.

But the ERA's time limit was in the resolution that introduced it, not in the amendment itself. (I believe this raises some questions about the validity of the deadline, but I'm not asking about that here.)

Apparently Martha Griffiths was the author of the resolution.

Why was the time limit written as part of the resolution rather than as part of the amendment itself, as had been done for five previous proposed amendments?

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  • I wasn't sure whether to post this here or in History, but given the existing tags Politics seemed more appropriate. Apr 26 at 3:57
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    If I read this correctly, putting a time limit like that into the amendment would mean the amendment would cease to apply if it is not ratified by enough states. That might not be a desirable effect for those writing the amendment.
    – quarague
    Apr 26 at 6:52
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    As a note the 27th took 202 years, 7 months, and 12 days to get ratified simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Joe W
    Apr 26 at 23:04
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    The question cites four other amendments that have this "time limit on ratification" language in the amendment itself. So general comments of the form "Why would anyone ever include such a limit in the amendment? That wouldn't make much sense" don't add anything to the discussion. It is a thing that has been done - multiple times - in a process that requires agreement of large numbers of people, so clearly it makes at least some sense to some people. The OP is just asking if there is a specific reason this case was handled differently.
    – Ben
    Apr 27 at 0:28
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    @JustMe A time-limited amendment is not inconceivable; the original Constitution contained a clause explicitly guaranteeing that the international slave trade would be protected until 1808.
    – H Huang
    Apr 27 at 6:41

1 Answer 1

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When Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, why didn't they include the time limit in the amendment itself?

The change was not specific to the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

There was a change in form for submitting Joint Resolutions for Constitutional Amendments that occurred between the 22nd (1940) and 23d (1960) amendments, where the "inoperative clause" was removed from the amendment text. To accommodate the seven year limit for ratification, the limit was moved to the preamble (after the resolving clause).

In the 22nd Amendment,

This Article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.

However, with the 23d (24th, 25th, and 26th) amendment there is no "inoperative clause",

Resolved by ... That the following article is hereby proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the ·united States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution only if ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress:

(Images of the Joint Resolutions are available on the Wikipedia articles for the respective amendments.)

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  • 1
    Thanks. I hadn't realized that several other later amendments also included a 7-year ratification time limit in their resolutions. Do you have any information about why this change was made? Apr 27 at 19:57
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    @KeithThompson - No. I would guess that someone finally realized the absurdity of having the "inoperative" statement in a ratified amendment. Finding anything in the Congressional record, if present, would be a daunting task and it may have been decided in committee, thus would not appear in the CR at all. That does not mean that I won't spend some free time looking for the information.
    – Rick Smith
    Apr 27 at 20:10

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