Virginia poised for historic vote on Equal Rights Amendment

Posted at 4:40 AM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 04:40:16-05

State lawmakers are poised to take a major step toward making Virginia the critical 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 22: A woman hold up a sign as members of Congress and representatives of women’s groups hold a rally to mark the 40th anniversary of congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) outside the U.S. Capitol March 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment last year and called for it to be passed again. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Democrat-controlled Virginia House and Senate are expected to advance the gender equality measure in floor votes Wednesday. The votes will be a momentous symbolic victory for many women’s rights advocates and a sign of how much once-solidly conservative Virginia has changed.

But at the national level, many questions remain about the fate of the proposed amendment first introduced nearly a century ago.

Originally introduced in Congress in 1923, three years after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, the ERA seeks to guarantee equal rights in the U.S. Constitution regardless of sex. It took Congress nearly five decades to pass the amendment, which still needed to be approved by 38 states.

Two deadlines passed without the required approval.

By the 1980s, 35 states had ratified the amendment, but it wasn’t until recent years that the movement gained more momentum. Nevada and Illinois ratified the ERA in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Court battles are expected to ensue. In December 2019, three conservative-leaning states filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to stop the amendment from being added to the U.S. Constitution.