Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, but the future of the amendment remains unclear because of several legal questions.
The amendment would establish in the Constitution a guarantee of equal rights under the law, regardless of sex.
“For the Women of Virginia and the Women of America,” Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, said in a Tweet. “The ERA has passed the House! Equal truly means equal.”
For the Women of Virginia and the Women of America. The ERA has passed the House! Equal truly means equal. pic.twitter.com/5I7J8JVX8v— Eileen Filler-Corn (@EFillerCorn) January 15, 2020
Filler-Corn is the first woman to serve as the speaker of the house in the commonwealth.
Gov. Ralph Northam also praised the General Assembly on voting to ratify the amendment.
“Virginia has made history—with today's votes in the General Assembly, our Commonwealth becomes the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment,” Northam tweeted. “Today, we are one step closer to ensuring true gender equality is enshrined in our Constitution.”
Virginia has made history—with today's votes in the General Assembly, our Commonwealth becomes the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Today, we are one step closer to ensuring true gender equality is enshrined in our Constitution. #VAratifyERA— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) January 15, 2020
An amendment needs to be ratified by 38 states to become part of the Constitution. Although Virginia was the 38th state to ratify the ERA, it did so nearly 40 years past the 1982 deadline, which brings into question of the validity of the ratification. Two other states to ratify the amendment also did so after the deadline.
Since 1982, five states that had voted to ratify the amendment later voted to rescind their ratification. The validity of late ratifications and the validity of rescinding one’s ratification will both have to be settled in the courts.
Democratic leaders made passing the ERA a top priority after they flipped control of both chambers of the state legislature from red to blue. Passing the Equal Rights Amendment was one of their common campaign talking points.
Most Republicans opposed the ratification because of potential interpretations of the wording of the amendment. Some Republicans objected that the ERA’s guarantee of the equality of rights regardless of sex could jeopardize affirmative action programs designed to help women. Others claimed that the language could be used to defend abortion rights.