Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel files brief in women’s rights case, pays homage to Griffiths, the ‘mother of the ERA’

By: - July 7, 2020 10:12 am

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment stand outside the entrance to the Virginia Capitol in Richmond on the opening day of the 2020 legislative session. | Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury

Attorney General Dana Nessel has filed an amicus brief in a case involving the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Commonwealth of Virginia v Ferriero.

The brief, which was filed on Thursday on behalf of the state of Michigan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia circuit, supports three plaintiff states, Illinois, Nevada and Virginia – the last three states to ratify the ERA. It asks the court to recognize the ERA as the 28th Amendment and declare that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.” 

The ERA amendment reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

The Nessel brief outlines the history of the ERA and the important work of former Michigan U.S. Rep. Martha Griffiths, who pushed the historic amendment through Congress in the early 1970s. In 1983, Griffiths became the first woman in Michigan history to serve as lieutenant governor.   

The ERA could finally become a reality. Here’s a look back at Michigan women’s fight for equality.

The brief, in part, reads: “Michigan would like to see the work of Martha Griffiths, a Michigan hero who worked tirelessly for sex equality and who championed the ERA, come to fruition. And Michigan has an interest in ensuring that its residents receive the highest level of protection from discrimination on the basis of sex — a goal that can be achieved by ensuring that the ERA’s guarantee of equality is enshrined in our nation’s most treasured document: the United States Constitution.”

Nessel said she is proud to offer the measure.

“It is time to put culture wars aside and to recognize that the elimination of sex inequality is a fundamental expression of who we are as people, who we are as Americans, and of the united nation we continually aspire to be,” she said. “That is why the ERA must be a part of our Constitution, as fundamental law and as a permanent part of our nation’s future.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.