People For the American Way

Virginia Ratifies the ERA: A Win for Gender Equity 46 Years in the Making

News and Analysis
Virginia Ratifies the ERA: A Win for Gender Equity 46 Years in the Making
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Making good on their commitment to make ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment a top priority in this year’s legislative session, on January 15, the newly elected Democratic majorities in Virginia’s General Assembly PASSED legislation making Virginia the 38th state to ratify ERA!

This is what progress looks like, and it’s a clear example of why elections matter.

The ERA guarantees equal rights and freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex. Virginia’s ratification gives the ERA the support of the number of states it needs to move to the next phase in its journey to adoption into the Constitution. One hundred years after passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote, this marks an historic moment in the movement for gender equity that could not come at a more crucial time, as we fight to defend generations of pro-choice and pro-equality policy advancement.

The amendment, passed by Congress in 1972, reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” After more than 40 years of being stalled by the anti-feminist Right, the movement to ratify the amendment reignited in 2017, and resulted in the ratification of the amendment in Nevada, Illinois, and now Virginia.

In a political climate in which so much is at stake, the ERA would fortify legal protections from sex discrimination—defending the right to reproductive freedom, advancing the right for equal pay and fair wages, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans, and other core aspects of gender equity. The ERA protects the right of all people to access abortion, birth control, gender affirming care, maternal care, and parenting supports. It lays the foundation for policy that ensures equal pay and fair wage for women of color, LGBTQ+ people, women with disabilities, and immigrant women. And the amendment protects survivors of sexual assault and gender-based harassment in the workplace, in school, and throughout public life.

Taking back the Virginia legislature and passing the Equal Rights Amendment was only possible with the help and support of PFAW members in Virginia and across the country. With your support and advocacy before and during 2019, we elected the new Democratic majority that championed the ERA as a core priority for this legislative session. People For the American Way was and is proud to support progressive champions that have been part of this core effort to benefit all Americans.

The victory in Virginia shows the increasing momentum for adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment. There will likely be lawsuits in the courts over issues concerning the deadline included in Congress’s original approval of the Amendment. ERA proponents in recently ratifying states, as well as some legal scholars, have said that since that deadline is not in the text of the Amendment itself, Congress can institute a new deadline or remove the ratification deadline altogether. The Trump administration has already submitted a legal opinion arguing against the ERA becoming law.

In the weeks and months ahead, it is crucial for your members of Congress to hear from activists like you how important the ratification of the ERA is for advancing and protecting gender equity. There is current legislation in Congress to remove the deadline and allow for the Amendment’s adoption—together we can ensure that the ERA is written into the Constitution and that all Americans are protected from discrimination on the basis of sex.