In a bid to breathe new life into the Equal Rights Amendment, the U.S. House on Thursday voted to allow the states to proceed with ratification of the constitutional change, even though backers missed the deadline for action in 1982.
The vote was 232 to 183, as five GOP lawmakers broke ranks to back the ratification extension.
"We must seize this moment to end sex discrimination," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).
"This is an historic day," said Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA).
"Equality has NO deadline," tweeted Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE).
“The Constitution does not guarantee equality for women,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA).
35 states ratified the ERA by the original March 1979 deadline, three short of the super-majority needed to add the measure to the U.S. Constitution. Congress then added three years, but no other states voted for ratification.
Several state legislatures have ratified the ERA in recent years - including Virginia last month, which would reach the needed 38 states - but there were also five states which reversed their approval of the amendment.
Republicans argued the Congress could not reach back and changed the deadline for ratification, which was originally 1979, but was extended until June 30, 1982.
"If you want to do this - start over," said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA).
GOP lawmakers raised a series of concerns in opposition, arguing the ERA would endanger religious freedom for Catholics, interfere with separate college sports for men and women, and require the NFL, NBA and all men's pro sports to field teams with 50 percent women.
The arguments probably won't matter, as the legislation has little chance of being taken up by the GOP-led Senate.