John Oliver wants 1 final state to finally push the Equal Rights Amendment across the finish line

John Oliver wants 1 more state to ratify the ERA
(Image credit: Screenshot/youTube/Last Week Tonight)

"Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of Congress passing the 19th Amendment, which enshrined in the Constitution women's right to vote," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. That's "both a long time and, when you think about it, not nearly long enough. In an ideal world, women would have been guaranteed the right to vote for a lot longer than Kirk Douglas has been breathing."

"Tonight, I want to focus on a milestone for gender equality that we haven't actually achieved yet: the Equal Rights Amendment," Oliver said. "The core of the Equal Rights Amendment is just 24 words long, and the idea behind it is broadly popular." The ERA, under consideration since 1923, sailed through Congress in 1972, and 30 states quickly ratified it, but the amendment requires 38 states, and "we are tantalizingly close — 37 states have ratified it over the years," Oliver said. "Tonight we thought it might be a good time to ask why has it taken so long to pass the ERA, what would it mean if we did, and how can we finally get it done?"

The big momentum killer, Oliver said, was Phyllis Schlafly, an effective anti-ERA activist and "basically a pre-internet internet troll." Despite her efforts, Congress has passed some gender-equality laws, he said, but "a constitutional amendment like the ERA is more stable, because constitutional amendments are safe from Donald Trump — unlike Melania's hopes and dreams and any American flag he gets close to."

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"None of this is that complicated," Oliver said. "Equality for women should be a basic principle of our society. And if you think it already is, great, all the more reason to write it down. And if you think it isn't, then we badly need the ERA." He ended by naming the 13 states that could make history by pushing the ERA over the finish line (mostly), and his only preference was that it not be Florida. There's NSFW language. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.