Despite Setbacks, Activists Not Giving Up On Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia | Sojourners

Despite Setbacks, Activists Not Giving Up On Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia

While much of the nation’s attention was focused on the government shutdown, a milestone for women’s equality, The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) — first proposed in 1923 — came to the brink of being realized in Virginia only to be reported dead on Friday.

Despite the apparent loss, ERA activists are not giving up on their goal of getting an ERA vote on the floor of the House of Delegates this session. 

The ERA passed the 40-member Virginia Senate on Jan. 15, by a comfortable majority, 26-14, with seven Republicans voting for ratification.

But some state GOP legislators appeared determined to prevent the ERA from getting to the House floor.

One week after pro-ERA activists cheered the Senate vote, they watched a subcommittee fail on a party-line vote, 4-2, to report the bill to the full Privileges and Elections Committee.

“The House Republican caucus could easily have made sure that a vote on the ERA reached the House floor,” wrote Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat. “Equality for women should not be the subject of political gamesmanship.”

Women’s equality is currently determined by a patchwork of laws that are subject to change. There is currently no constitutional guarantee of equality without the ratification of the ERA.

A recent poll conducted by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., found that 81 percent of voters polled support ratifying the ERA.

Friday morning, as the Privileges and Elections committee concluded its legislative business for the week, Democrat Mark Sickles made a motion to put the ERA resolution on the agenda for a vote. Once again, it failed to pass on a party-line vote of 12-10.

Nevertheless, pro-ERA activists say there is a path to get the resolution to the House floor before the legislative session concludes on Feb. 23., though they declined to elaborate on the parliamentary procedure.

“We don’t control lawmakers," said Kati Hornung with VAratifyERA.org. "We have given them what we think is the right strategy."

Today, their website is encouraging supporters to call Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, to ask that he give the ERA a "full and fair vote on the House floor."

Large supporters such as the Virginia PTA, Virginia Education Association (VEA), and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., have set up lobbying days with legislators in the coming days.

"Where there’s a will, there’s a way," wrote Hornung. "Just keep your eye on Virginia [this] week."

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