by Shannon Fisher – Host and Producer, Our Lives with Shannon Fisher – Authors on the Air Global Radio Network
Are men and women guaranteed equal rights? The text of the Equal Rights Amendment, written in 1923 by suffragist Alice Paul and passed by Congress in 1972, is “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Most Americans are aware of the existence of the ERA. They know it was passed by Congress in the 1970s and assume it is a done deal. What many of our fellow citizens don’t know is that – despite being passed in the House and Senate – the ERA was never ratified as an amendment to the Constitution. And Virginia is part of the reason.
The process for ratifying an amendment, per Article V of the Constitution, is a 2/3 majority vote in both the House and Senate, and ratification by 3/4 of the states. The ERA needed to be ratified in 38 states to become the law of the land, and Congress imposed a seven-year deadline for state ratification in the amendment’s proposing clause. The March 22, 1979 deadline came and went with only 35 states having ratified the ERA. Virginia was not one of those states.
Men and women still do not have equal rights under the law in America, In 2019. But Virginians have the power to change that at the polls on Tuesday!
A renewed push for ratification in recent years has resulted in two more states, Nevada and Illinois, ratifying the ERA. That means only one state remains necessary to meet the requirement for adding an amendment to the United States Constitution. That final state is going to be either Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, or Virginia. And Virginia is almost there!
The Equal Rights Amendment has a fighting chance at finally being ratified by the Virginia General Assembly in the 2020 session, which would make us the final state to ratify the ERA. Making American history is something with which we’re quite familiar in the Old Dominion. Let’s do it again!
Ratification has bipartisan support in the Virginia Senate and has passed through that chamber several times. The House of Delegates, though, always blocks it. Whether it is in committee meetings or motions made on the House floor, leadership of the GOP in Virginia – the majority party – always finds a way to either block a vote or vote against it. This exercise has been on repeat for years, but if Democrats take over the House of Delegates this year, the bipartisan support in the ranks of both houses assures the General Assembly will ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and set into motion a path to equal rights for women and men under the law.
The only remaining hurdle will be retroactively nullifying the deadline, but there are several ways to address that. The most direct and swift course would be for Congress to declare the final three state ratifications valid, but there are also legitimate legal challenges to the validity of the deadline that could render it null and void.
So, Virginians, the future of gender equality is in our hands. If we flip the House of Delegates blue on Tuesday, we ratify the ERA. Vote!