Sidley recently filed an amicus brief on behalf of a group of former legislators from Illinois, Nevada, and Virginia in favor of the appeal made by the attorneys general of those states to compel the Archivist of the United States—the federal official responsible for announcing and certifying new constitutional amendments—to certify and publish the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution. At issue is whether the ratification of the ERA, which would guarantee equal rights under the law for all U.S. citizens regardless of sex, is to be deemed effective based on the votes of those three States’ legislatures, which bring the total number of ratifying states up to the two-thirds requirement set by Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
The appeal began after Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia became the last three states to ratify the ERA in 2017, 2018, and 2020, respectively. With these three states joining 35 others, the amendment reached the two-thirds threshold necessary to amend the Constitution. In 2020, Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois sued the National Archivist, David Ferriero, over his refusal to certify the amendment’s adoption. In 2021, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras dismissed the states’ Complaint. The case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Sidley’s team, led by Tacy F. Flint and composed of senior managing associate Elizabeth Y. Austin and associates Meredith R. Aska McBride and Mark C. Priebe (all Chicago), filed a brief arguing that state legislators who voted in favor of the amendment should have the final decision as to its ratification, noting: “Whether to ratify a constitutional amendment is a decision assigned solely to State legislatures and the individual legislators elected to populate them—not to an unelected federal officer.”
As Tacy explained, “Our clients—legislators on both sides of the aisle from Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia—voted to ratify the ERA because of their profound commitment to equality. We filed this brief on their behalf because we share that commitment, and to ensure that the votes they cast are recognized.” The former legislators represented by Sidley joined an impressive group of amici supporting the states’ lawsuit and advocating in favor of the ERA’s ratification. A January 26th Reuters article by Jenna Greene covering the ERA battle noted that “a veritable who’s who of women in Big Law including Loretta Lynch, Kathleen Sullivan, Beth Brinkmann, Linda Martin, Linda Coberly and Tacy Flint have weighed in this month on behalf of amici in support of the amendment.”