UPDATED with video: John Oliver used the bulk of Sunday’s Last Week Tonight (aside from comparing potential UK prime minister Boris Johnson to “what Kevin McCallister [Macauley Culkin in Home Alone] would eventually look like if his parents never came home”) to weigh in on the perpetual limbo of the Equal Rights Amendment, which needs one more state to ratify it.
The ERA was originally passed in Congress in 1972, almost 50 years after it was originally introduced. Since then, the debate has been politicized and muddled by interpretations, and has been one state short (still) of the 38 needed to ratify.
Oliver doesn’t buy the interpretation arguments (some say the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection is sufficient to include gender discrimination, while others, including, Oliver pointed out, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, argued it didn’t.)
“You can’t interpret [the ERA] as not addressing gender discrimination, because that is all it addresses,” Oliver said, with the ERA’s words over his right shoulder: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”
To those still unsure, he addressed directly why we need the ERA as much now as ever.
“It’s because laws can be rolled back by a simple act of Congress, and policy guidelines can go away based on who’s in charge — that is happening right now,” said Oliver, who last month took on the topic of states passing stricter abortion laws that eventually could challenge Roe v. Wade. “Congress recently let the Violence Against Women Act expire, and the Trump administration has rescinded more than 20 policy guidelines on Title IX anti-discrimination laws.
“A constitutional amendment like the ERA is more stable because constitutional amendments are safe from Donald Trump.”
He added: “Equality for women should be a basic principle of our society — and if you think that 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.”
Oliver’s big finish was to ask which of the remaining states will finish the job of ratification.
“Any of these 13 states has a huge chance to change how history views them forever,” he said, standing up and walking toward the camera with the states’ flags (even Mississippi’s) behind him, like so many briefcase-holders on Deal Or No Deal.
“So, the only real question here is, which one of you wants to seize this chance?”
Check out the segment above.