Beyond the Super-Majority: Post-Adoption Ratification of the Equality Amendments

Gabriel J. Chin & Anjali Abraham, Beyond the Super-Majority: Post-Adoption Ratification of the Equality Amendments, 50 Ariz. L. Rev. 25 (2009).

Abstract:  Although an amendment to the Constitution is effective when ratified by three-fourths of the States, the States in the Union at the time of adoption unanimously ratified the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, as well as the Bill of Rights. Ratification of an already-effective provision at first blush appears pointless, but it serves an important function: Post-adoption ratifications moot legal and political infirmities with earlier ratifications when, as was the case with the Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, one or more of the first three-fourths of the states to ratify did so in a procedurally questionable manner. Post-adoption ratification has also served as an important symbol; for example, several states ratified the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments during the Civil Rights era to show support for racial integration.

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