Party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) voted with House Democrats today to remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, becoming just one of five Republicans to support the bill.
While still a Democrat, Van Drew became a co-sponsor of the move to extend the Equal Rights Amendment extension last September. He became the 11th member of the New Jersey House delegation to sign on to the bill.
The measure passed the House, 232-183 and now heads to the U.S. Senate.
Nine New Jersey Democrats voted yes — Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark), a co-sponsor of the bill, was a no-show — with Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) voting no.
While Van Drew has been quietly removing his name from some bills he had signed on to as a Democratic congressman, the official House website still listed him as a co-sponsor of H.J. Res.79 this morning, while the vote was taking place.
Van Drew was not among the House members to speak for or against the bill on the floor of the House during a debate this morning.
The bill had 221 Democratic co-sponsors, and with Van Drew, just three on the Republican sides. All ten Democrats in the New Jersey House delegation are co-sponsors.
Democrats won control of the Virginia legislature’s lower house last year, and voted last month to ratify the ERA.
The ERA was approved by Congress in 1972 required ratification by 38 states by 1979. It fell 3 states short, even with an extension to 1982.
Renewed interest in the ERA came when Nevada ratified it anyway in 2017 and Illinois in 2018. Since the Virginia Senate has already voted to ratify. Should Democrats win control of Virginia’s lower house this fall – it’s currently a 51-49 Republican majority – it’s possible to see the amendment ratified, if Congress extends the deadline.
The U.S. House of Representatives originally approved the constitutional amendment on October 12, 1971 by a 324-24 vote. Thirteen New Jersey House members voted yes: Reps. John Hunt (R-Pitman), James Howard (D-Spring Lake Heights), Frank Thompson (D-Trenton), Peter Frelinghuysen (R-Harding), William Widnall (R-Ridgewood), Bob Roe (D-Wayne), Henry Helstoski (D-East Rutherford), Peter Rodino (D-Newark), Joseph Minish (D-West Orange), Cornelius Gallagher (D-Bayonne), Dominick Daniels (D-Jersey City), Edwin Forsythe (R-Moorestown), and the only woman in the New Jersey delegation, Florence Dwyer (R-Elizabeth).
The only no vote from New Jersey was cast by Rep. Charles Sandman (R-Cape May Court House).
The ERA was passed by the Senate on March 23, 1972. Both of New Jersey’s U.S. Senators voted yes: Republican Clifford Case and Democrat Harrison Williams.
Helped by the time difference, the Hawaii Legislature voted to ratify on the same day.
New Jersey became the 12th state to ratify the ERA on April 17, 1972. The Assembly voted 62-4 in favor of ratification. The Senate had voted for ratification on March 28, 34-0. Both houses were controlled by Republicans at the time.
Assemblywoman Ann Klein (D-Morris Township) voted for ratification, even though she opposed sending women into combat. Klein said she was equally opposed to sending men to fight.
A bid to extend the ratification deadline in 1983 failed to pass the House by six votes. Of New Jersey’s fourteen House members, just Smith and Forsythe voted against the measure.
Smith said he was a strong supporter of the ERA, but voted against an extension because the House would not agree to amendments that address abortion, women in combat, civil service preference to veterans, or the handling of private schools.
Correction: an earlier version of this story reported that Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark) voted yes. He did not vote at all.