CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada on Wednesday became the first state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment decades after the deadline to enshrine in the U.S. Constitution that women and men are equal under the law.

Lawmakers who backed the amendment say it is a profound and overdue gesture for women who continue to experience discrimination 45 years after Congress first submitted it to the states. Though the move is only symbolic, supporters say it would be pivotal if Congress ever extends the 1982 deadline.

It brought the nation two states shy of ratifying the amendment. Four Democratic members of the Republican-controlled Congress introduced legislation this year that would restart the clock on its approval.

Activists rallied around Nevada’s action in part to unite the millions who marched for women’s rights a day after President Trump’s inauguration.

“Nevada today reminded us of the bittersweet progress when it comes to gender equality – how far women have come and still how far we have to go in the fight for equal rights,” said Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who was elected Nevada’s first female U.S. senator in November.

The amendment required approval from 38 states to take effect, and 35 states ratified it by 1977.

No others joined by the 1982 cutoff.

If the amendment is reopened for consideration, the previous ratifications would stand and just two more states would need to approve it.

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