For the past ten days Virginia lawmakers have been travelling the state on a bus tour advocating for Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. This is significant because Virginia could become the 38th state to ratify the ERA; 38 states are needed for ratification and a bipartisan group of Virginia legislators want Virginia to be the historic vote.
Democrat Jennifer Carroll Foy and Republican Glen Sturtevant are co-sponsoring legislation to ratify the ERA in Virginia’s state legislature. Sturtevant argued during the ten day bus tour that Virginia is “the birth place of the bill of rights, but we need to continue to make sure that we include this fundamental American value, which is equality of everyone before the law, in the US constitution.” Foy added that “when we talk about things such as equal pay for equal work, ending sex discrimination, what we are talking about is giving those things teeth,” which is what the Equal Rights Amendment would guarantee.
The ERA passed both houses of the U.S. 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 ratification deadline set by Congress came in 1982. The amendment was three states short of the 38 needed for ratification. But the push for the ERA has received renewed attention in recent years since Nevada, the first state since 1982, voted to ratify the ERA last year and Illinois, the 37th state, ratified the ERA earlier this year.
Many Constitutional scholars believe that because the time limit is in the pre-amble of the amendment, and therefore not part of the wording voted on by the states, it is subject to an extension by a vote in Congress. Thousands demonstrated in Washington in 1978—the original ERA deadline—and Congress granted an extension until June 30, 1982.
The ERA’s passage would be far from symbolic; it will help women in cases of discrimination in education, employment, wages, insurance benefits, scholarship, military service, social security, violence against women, and more. Without the passage of the ERA, women have been forced to gain equality law by law. If the ERA is ratified by 38 states and becomes 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: NPR 11/18/18; Feminist Newswire 4/12/18; Feminist Newswire 3/3/17; Feminist Newswire 5/13/16