From VA State Senator Jennifer McClellan:
Video: At U.S. House Hearing, McClellan Calls on Federal Government to Certify Ratifications of Equal Rights Amendment
VIDEO: McClellan Serves as Witness Before U.S. House Oversight Committee in Hearing on ERA
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) delivered testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, highlighting Virginia’s recent passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and calling for federal action.
Video of McClellan’s testimony is available here, beginning at the 21:30 mark.
A video of a portion of her remarks is available on Twitter here.
“With the ratifications of the Equal Rights Amendment by Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia, the states have now done our part,” McClellan said. “It is now time for the National Archivist to do his: certify the ratifications of these three states, and publish the amendment. To the extent Congressional action is needed, I ask you to take it immediately.”
In 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, clearing the threshold for ratification. Sen. McClellan and Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) were the lead Senate patrons of Virginia’s resolution to ratify Equal Rights Amendment
“I am here as a daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of educators, domestic workers, community leaders, and civil rights activists who struggled for equality in the segregated South,” she said. “I am here as a mother who does not want to leave the fight for equality to my children, Jackson and Samantha. I am here as a legislator who helped lead Virginia to become the 38th and final state necessary to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment last year. The history of my family – and my Commonwealth– is one of facing inequities and working to create a better future for the next generation.”
McClellan’s full testimony is available here:
Testimony of Virginia State Senator Jennifer L. McClellan October 21, 2021
Thank you Madam Chair, Representatives Connolly and Spanberger, and members of the committee. I am very honored to be here today.
I am Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan.
I am here as a daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of educators, domestic workers, community leaders, and civil rights activists who struggled for equality in the segregated South.
I am here as a mother who does not want to leave the fight for equality to my children, Jackson and Samantha.
I am here as a legislator who helped lead Virginia to become the 38th and final state necessary to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment last year.
The history of my family – and my Commonwealth– is one of facing inequities and working to create a better future for the next generation.
120 years ago, my great-grandfather — born on a plantation 4 years after Emancipation — had to pass a literacy test and find three white men to vouch for him to be able to register to vote. But my great-grandmother couldn’t. My grandfather and father had to pay poll taxes.
My mother comes from generations of domestic workers who served vital roles in our society and were often overlooked or treated unfairly and paid very little. And while my father could vote at the age of 22, my mother could not vote until well into her 30s – after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
I carried these legacies with me into the Virginia House of Delegates in 2006 – at a time when there were only 16 women in that chamber. I felt that imbalance when I became the first Delegate to give birth while in office – and was asked if I would resign or retire as a result, while a male colleague who became a father two months later was not.
For my family, my Commonwealth, and my country, it has been a long march toward equality.
And it is a march that has included women of color from the beginning, even when we have often been the last to benefit from our work.
Black women, including the founders of my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated, in their first public act in 1913, marched for the right to vote in this very city – even when told to march in the back. Black women marched for civil rights in 1963 from here to the Lincoln Memorial – even when not given a speaking role.
Women of color also have led the way for the passage of the ERA, including Representatives Shirley Chisholm and Patsy Takemoto Mink 50 years ago, when the House passed the ERA.
Virginia’s ratification was led by multigenerational Black women: Senator Mamie Locke and myself in the Senate, and former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy in the House.
Nevada’s ratification was led by Senator Pat Spearman.
Other women of color pushing their states to ratify the ERA include Arkansas Senator Joyce Elliott, Florida Senator Audrey Gibson, North Carolina Representative Carla Cunningham, South Carolina Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter, and Utah Representative Karen Kwan, just to name a few.
I was proud to lead Virginia to become the 38th state to ratify the ERA last year.
Given our history, it is poetic justice that it was Virginia to put the ERA over the top.
In 1619, the men of Jamestown understood that for Virginia to be a permanent settlement, they needed women. So, they actively recruited women “to make wives to the inhabitants.” In May 1620, the first 90 women arrived in response to that call. And their rights were surrendered to their husbands.
They could not vote. They could not hold public office. They could not own control property.
African women – and men – who arrived on these shores in 1619 were considered property and had even fewer—if any—rights.
In 1776, when Abigail Adams wrote to her husband as he went to the Continental Congress, she implored him and his fellow delegates to “remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”
Over the past 245 years, we have made progress. Slowly. But true equality under the law for women – and especially women of color – has been elusive.
With the ratifications of the Equal Rights Amendment by Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia, the states have now done our part. It is now time for the National Archivist to do his: certify the ratifications of these three states, and publish the amendment. To the extent Congressional action is needed, I ask you to take it immediately.
It is time – it is past time – for the U.S. Constitution to join over 100 constitutions across the world in having gender equality in the Constitution, including every Constitution adopted since World War II.
It is time for me to stop fighting the same fights that my mother, grandmother and great grandmother had to fight. It is time for me to tell children, Jackson and Samantha, that the United States Constitution guarantees them both equality under the law.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak today.