Advocates and supporters in the Virginia legislature celebrated Wednesday after both houses of the General Assembly approved the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — making Virginia the key 38th state to support the measure.
The amendment, which was proposed by the U.S. Congress in 1972, aims to “make discrimination against women unconstitutional and prohibit gender discrimination in areas such as education, equality in pay and employment,” according to Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-2nd District, who is the chief House patron.
“This is a historic day for women,” Foy said in a release. “For too long, we’ve gone without protections from gender discrimination, allowing women and girls to be treated as second-class citizens, so it’s about time Virginia was on the right side of history. In passing this resolution, we’re finally on record as supporting women’s rights as human beings, equal to men — something that must also finally be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. I was so proud to introduce this resolution and I look forward to seeing its impact on women across the country.”
Virginia’s House of Delegates voted 59-41 to approve the amendment and Virginia’ Senate approved it 28-12.
The House legislation is set to head to the Senate to be ratified and the Senate legislation is set to head to the House to be ratified, said Josh Crandall, Foy’s chief of staff. There are no major differences between the two versions, so today’s vote is significant although not final.
There are two major legal issues regarding the proposed U.S. Constitution amendment, said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science and international affairs professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. Those issues include a 10-year deadline first imposed on the proposed amendment in 1972.
“Virginia’s action on Wednesday comes long after the expiration of a congressionally established deadline for approval and after some states have attempted to rescind a previous approval of the ERA,” he said. “Ultimately the courts probably will have to decide whether to invalidate Congress’ ratification deadline and whether individual states can rescind an earlier approval of a constitutional amendment.”
In November, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in sponsoring a bipartisan Senate resolution to remove the ratification deadline.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement Wednesday that he is prepared to take whatever legal action necessary to support the ERA.
Foy was among the first classes of women to attend Virginia Military Institute, noted a news release. A U.S. Supreme Court case, United States v. Virginia, first required the institute to admit women.
She said adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would ensure stronger protections from pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, help close the wage gap, and make workplaces more friendlier to expectant mothers, according to a news release.
During the 2019 session, a House of Delegates subcommittee — then led by a Republican majority — killed four bills to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment on a 4-2 party-line. In November, Republicans lost control of both the House and the Senate.
A House of Delegates subcommittee killed four bills to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment on a 4-2 party-line vote Tuesday amid verbal …