Virginia Equal Rights Amendment Supporters Vow to Push Forward

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The House of Delegates deadlocked 50-50 on a bid to force a full floor vote on the gender-equality measure known as the Equal Rights Amendment. (Kristen Proctor/Twenty20)

RICHMOND, Va. – Republicans in Virginia’s House of Delegates succeeded in stopping a Democratic-led effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment by a single vote.

The proposed amendment would establish gender equality as a principle in the U.S. Constitution. Although it had the support of two Republicans at the beginning, an effort to change House rules to bring the amendment to the floor for a vote was stopped by GOP leaders. That ended its chances of a vote in the House of Delegates this session.

Supporter Katherine Jordan, who volunteers with the group VAratifyERA, said she hoped the state would have been the 38th to ratify the amendment.

“It would’ve been incredibly fitting to have done it this year, because it’s the 400th anniversary of our General Assembly,” she said, “and instead, what we’re left with is a session really marred by scandal and division.”

The House Republican leaders who blocked passage of the ERA said it would lead to looser restrictions on abortions, which the group VAratifyERA denied.

If supporters of the amendment had succeeded in getting Virginia to be the 38th state, the ERA would have cleared the three-fourths threshold that an amendment must pass in order to be added to the federal Constitution. 

Jordan vowed it will happen as she looked back at other resistance to equal protections and voting rights. 

“The Equal Rights Amendment will be added to the Constitution, but the real tragedy for Virginia is to miss being on the right side of history when, too many times, we have not been,” she said. “We fought the 14th Amendment, we fought integration, we fought interracial marriage, we fought the 19th Amendment.”

In order for the ERA to move forward, Congress would need to retroactively remove the ratification deadline and any future state’s approval. Some supporters have proposed starting over with “fresh start” amendments that would get rid of deadlines altogether.

The text of SJ 284 is online at lis.virginia.gov, and background information and the “Fresh Start” amendment are at fas.org.

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