Earlier this year, a resolution introduced by Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia was narrowly defeated in the General Assembly, but with a new Democratic majority in the House of Delegates and state Senate, things could be different in 2020.
“With a Democratic majority I am more than certain that we have the votes, and I feel optimistic that there will also be Republicans who join us in this historic vote,” Foy said Monday.
Foy, D-2nd, re-introduced the resolution Monday. It was one of the first four pieces of legislation submitted by Democrats and a signal of Democratic party’s legislative priorities for the upcoming 2020 General Assembly session.
The Equal Rights Amendment, which needs to be ratified by 38 states to become part of the U.S. Constitution, guarantees equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex and seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment and other matters.
“We have laws on the books that try to address the equality in pay, and we have laws on the books to try to address sex discrimination,” Foy said. “But the reason those things are still happening and they’re rampant is because we don’t have the constitutional amendment to give those laws teeth.”
The ERA was passed by Congress in 1972 but needed to be ratified by 38 states by 1982 to be adopted into the U.S. Constitution. At the time, only 35 states had ratified it and the amendment was never taken into the Constitution.
Virginia will become the 38thand final state needed to ratify the amendment if it is approved in 2020 -- 38 years past the deadline.
And what happens next is anyone’s guess.
It’s not clear whether the amendment can be ratified since the 1982 deadline expired, and five states that passed the ERA prior to 1982 – Kentucky, Nebraska, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee -- have since rescinded their ratification of the amendment, further adding to the issue’s uncertainty.
“We do anticipate legal challenges,” Foy said. “But we’re more than confident that the Equal Rights Amendment will survive any type of legal challenge and become a part of the United States Constitution.”