On Thursday, prior to first readings of the rule changes set forth by Virginia Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) and Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), a rally in support of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was held on the steps of Virginia’s Capitol. Advocates heard from local and national speakers on the importance of the ERA, which ensures constitutional gender equality.
Among the speakers were Toni Van Pelt, President of the National Organization for Women, and Kelli Musick, Feminist Majority Foundation National Campus Coordinator.
Musick states, “We have the incredible opportunity to change that by passing the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia, but not just for Virginia women, but for every single woman and girl across the United States who needs and deserves constitutional protections against gender discrimination,” she continues, “… It’s time to support the will of 81% of all Virginians! Adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution will unequivocally strengthen protections against discrimination in the workforce and help to advance economic justice for all women for centuries to come.”
Since 1972, when the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification, the Virginia House has never been able to vote on its ratification. The Virginia Senate has passed the ERA six times but the House Privileges and Elections Committee has refused to allow the ERA to come to the House floor for a vote.
Kati Hornung, campaign coordinator of VAratifyERA, states, “It’s alarming to see the word ‘family’ co-opted by a conservative group [The Family Foundation] intent on stopping universally supported legislation for constitutional gender equality. The letters they’ve sent our lawmakers, with overt mischaracterizations and falsehoods, are insulting to the intelligence of our policy makers. Virginians should be furious. We are grateful for the delegates willing to call-out the system as broken, and for working to force a [House] floor vote so Virginia can ratify the ERA and move past this shameful chapter.”
Along with the rally, Thursday morning, two ERA advocates held a die-in, a form of protest where participants mimic being dead, in front of the office of Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) due to his efforts to halt Delegate Hala Ayala’s rule change. The women were arrested and dragged away by police.
On Wednesday, hoping to “jump-start”ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) filed a procedural rule to force a vote on ERA. However, the House majority leader, Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) attempted to halt her efforts by filing a blocking resolution, which required motions like hers to receive a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority.
Regarding the rule change, Ellie Smeal, the President of Feminist Majority Foundation, explained, “At last, after 47 years, we will get a procedural vote on from the Virginia House on the ERA. Let there be no mistake, if a delegate votes against the procedure that will allow the ERA to come to the House floor, that delegate is not pro-ERA. If the delegate votes yes to the procedure, and allows it to come to the floor, that delegate is truly pro-ERA.”
On January 15th, Virginia’s Republican controlled Senate passed a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The resolution is now the responsibility of the House. The Senate has passed the resolution multiple times in the past, but the Virginia House’s Privileges and Elections Committee has blocked the resolution from coming to the floor for a vote.
Media Resources: Washington Top 2/14/19; Washington Post 2/14/19; VA Ratify ERA Press Release 2/14/19; Feminist News 1/17/19