Brow Beat

John Oliver Pits States Against One Another in a Battle to Make History

Even in these divisive times, surely something as innocent and noble-sounding as the Equal Rights Amendment will bring the nation together, united by a shared desire to—I’m sorry, I can’t write that with a straight face. Of course there are people who still oppose this ’70s-era constitutional amendment, which asserts that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver explained the history of the amendment, the arguments made by opponents like the late Phyllis Schlafly, and how just one state’s ratification could get the ERA added to the U.S. Constitution. Oliver turned it into a competition of sorts, lining up all of the flags of the remaining states and challenging them individually to change history. “Somebody please do it before Florida,” he begged. “Because I do not want to give them credit for this.