On Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously for a resolution in support of the Virginia legislature ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If it passed, Virginia would become the 37th state to ratify the ERA, which adds to the Constitution a prohibition on discrimination based on sex.
“While specific laws advancing equal pay, promoting child care and protecting women from domestic violence are critical, fundamental rights etched into our Constitution are long overdue as well,” read a statement by Penny Gross, Mason District Supervisor and sponsor of the resolution. “As the political body representing the largest population of Virginians, and therefore the largest population of Virginia women, the Fairfax Board of Supervisors strongly supports Virginia’s efforts to make them equal under our U.S. Constitution.”
Fairfax County is not the first local governing body to pass a resolution in support of the ERA. In 2016, the Durham City Council passed a resolution calling on the North Carolina state legislature to ratify.
The Virginia legislative session is only 60 days long, and activists are already rallying in the capital of Richmond to garner support for the ERA. The November 2017 elections saw 15 new Democrats elected to the Virginia House of Delegates—11 of whom were women—ending the Republicans’ long-held super-majority in the state house. With Democrats now controlling 49 of the 100 seats, many feminist activists believe Virginia has a real chance at ratifying the ERA.
The ERA passed both houses of the United States Congress in 1972, and like every proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was sent to the states for ratification. The amendment lost momentum after the arbitrary ten year deadline set by Congress for its passage came in 1982. The movement was three states short of the 38 needed for ratification. But the push for the ERA has received renewed attention following the election of Donald Trump.
In March, Nevada became the 36th state–and the first state since 1982–to ratify the ERA. The formalities of the ratification procedure were successfully concluded on March 22, the 45th anniversary of when the U.S. Senate approved the ERA and forwarded it to the states for ratification in 1972.
Many Constitutional scholars believe that because the time-limit is in the pre-amble of the amendment, and therefore not voted on by the states, it is subject to extension by a vote in Congress. Thousands demonstrated in Washington in 1978, and Congress granted an extension until June 30, 1982.
The ERA’s passage would be far from simply symbolic: it will help women in cases of discrimination in education, employment, wages, insurance benefits, scholarships, military service, social security, violence against women, and so much more. Without the passage of the ERA, women have been forced to gain equality law by law. If the ERA was ratified by 38 states and became the law of the land, there would be a Constitutional provision against the Supreme Court, Congress or state legislatures gutting equality on the basis of sex.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 10/19/16, 3/20/17;