The Democratic victory in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate could result in Virginia being the final necessary state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would add it to the U.S. Constitution. However, legal questions surround whether some or any of the former ratifications are still valid.
The ERA, which would guarantee equal rights under the law regardless of sex, was approved by the U.S. House and Senate in the 1970s and ratified by 35 states by the 1982 deadline, just shy of the 38 states needed for the amendment to become part of the Constitution. Since 1982, two other states have ratified the amendment, but five states have voted to rescind their support for the amendment.
The question of whether a state can legally rescind support for an amendment after ratifying it has not been settled, nor has the question about whether the ratifications would remain valid after the deadline passed. If Virginia ratifies the ERA, it is likely that there will be challenges in court.
Regardless, passing the ERA was a major talking point for Democratic candidates in the 2019 election, which saw both chambers of the legislature flip from red to blue. In a recent interview with The Hill, the Speaker-elect, Rep. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, said that ratifying the amendment is a top priority.
“It’s past time that women are included in the founding document of our country and we’ll continue this fight until it’s won, and quite clearly that will be very soon after we gavel in in January,” Filler-Corn said.
Potential interpretations of the amendment’s wording has led to some of the opposition. With the amendment guaranteeing “equality of rights under the law” on the basis of sex, some opponents say that this could put affirmative action programs that benefit women at risk. The language has also been opposed by pro-life groups who have argued that this language could be used to defend abortion rights.