by John Suddarth, a 2018 Democratic congressional candidate in VA-01
This past Tuesday, Republican Virginia delegates tried to kill the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) with a 4-2 vote in subcommittee. This action was both un-American and anti-democratic. The ERA is supported by more than 80% of all Virginians and passed with bipartisan support last week in the State Senate. It would pass with bipartisan support in the House as well – were it allowed out of committee and to the floor.
Like many popular issues, such as sensible gun control and unbiased redistricting, nefarious Republican politicians beholden to their right-wing donors stop legislation like the ERA in subcommittee because they’d be embarrassed to vote against it in public.
The Republicans’ strategy is simple and twofold:
- Assign malleable Republicans from “safe” districts, like “Buddy” Fowler of Hanover—no “buddy” of democracy – to subcommittees where they vote to stop popular legislation. Another example is the “red-flag” law – passed in many states that allows law enforcement officers to temporarily take weapons from suicidal citizens – killed in subcommittee using this method just last week, and
- Keep their conservative supporters scared, angry, and misinformed about the effects of passing progressive legislation. Just this past week, state politicians told their supporters that the ERA would result in their freshman daughters being randomly assigned a male roommate, and that women would no longer get child support and Social Security survivor benefits. They’re lies, of course, but Republicans never let truth get in the way of a good scare tactic.
The public is waking up to this cynical strategy, and as a result, we see more progressives elected and more women seeking office. Scrutiny like the ERA vote is getting makes it harder for politicians to vote against the public’s best interest.
Some say that the ERA is unnecessary, or that we already have equality, so an amendment is not needed. But even though Thomas Jefferson knew that some truths were self-evident and James Madison that certain rights were unalienable, they still wrote those truths and rights down — and our Founders still made them the law of the land, enshrined in our Constitution. Today, we need do that for Equal Rights as well.
The Supreme Court denied Lilly Ledbetter hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages she would have received were she a man, because she did not complain within 180 days of the first time Goodyear cheated her! And she worked there for 19 years. Inequality and bias, in other words, were protected by a technicality at the Supreme Court. Then-Justice Anthony Scalia actually said the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. Is this the America that Republicans want? The ERA would leave no doubt in any Justice’s mind that equality is a right that may not negated by legislation nor denied by an employer.
After a quarter millennium of both patience and struggle, it is well past time for equal pay and equal rights for women, for all of us. There are a lot of us fighting for the ERA, we’re paying attention, and we vote.
Our legislators must take a stand on the ERA. Demand a floor vote on the Equal Rights Amendment in the Virginia House of Delegates now by contacting your delegate and letting him or her know that we will work to replace any delegate who stops the ERA. You can find your delegate’s phone number here:
It’s time to step up, reach out, and let your delegate know how to vote on the Equal Rights Amendment.