Democrats made a clean sweep in Virginia yesterday, gaining control of both houses of the legislature and setting up a scenario in which Virginia becomes the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment.
The coming Democratic takeover of the Virginia legislature has cleared the path for the state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality for women under the Constitution.
Earlier this year, the state Senate voted to advance the ERA. But the bipartisan progress was halted in the House of Delegates, where Republican opponents blocked a full floor vote. The new Democratic legislative majority is poised now to finish the job — and make Virginia the critical 38th state to back the amendment.
As they celebrated their sweep in Richmond, top Virginia Democrats promised the ERA would be a priority in 2020.
It might not be that simple, however.
Congress approved the ERA in March of 1972, setting a seven-year period to get approval of the three quarters of the states required to pass a constitutional amendment. The time was extended to 1982, but still only 35 states had approved the ERA.
Nevada and Illinois approved the ERA after President Trump was elected. So, Virginia’s approval would make the 38th state.
But it's more than 30 years after the deadline extension. Supporters of the ERA will go all in for a new extension that would allow a belated approval vote by Virginia to put the ERA over the finish line.
If Virginia does approve the ERA, there will be “a legal showdown, intense lobbying and constitutional fireworks.”
The ERA is a rallying point for the left, buy it is also something of an anachronism: Can you name one right that women don’t have in our country today?
But why not just pass it and be done with the controversies and divisiveness that will be the inevitable result of the renewed battle over the ERA? Aren’t we weary of fighting?
IWF Senior Policy Analyst Inez Feltscher Stepman explained why we should care about the ERA in a Policy Focus earlier this year:
While proponents characterize the ERA as merely enshrining the basic legal equality of men and women into the highest law of the land, the reality is that the Amendment could have sweeping consequences unintended by voters. Risking those consequences is foolish when legal equality is already guaranteed by the Constitution, and buttressed by federal and state law.
• The Constitution already protects women: Women’s rights to free speech, religious liberty, bearing arms, due process, jury trial, and more are protected just as they are for men. • The ERA threatens women’s legal protections: Especially if interpreted broadly by judges, the ERA could affect a wide range of policies, such as the exclusion of women from the draft, whether programs like WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) can be aimed just at one sex, and whether restrooms and locker rooms in government facilities, like public schools, can remain single sex.
• The ERA is a bait and switch: It promises basic equality, but leaves the door open for a radical progressive agenda to be implemented through the judiciary, without input from American voters, the majority of whom today are women.