Virginia lawmakers vote to ratify Equal Rights Amendment

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Democrats fulfilled a campaign promise Wednesday to make Virginia the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly passed the resolution with bipartisan support. Before the Virginia Senate passed the resolution, the House of Delegates voted 59-41 to ratify the amendment.

The resolution, which failed to get through House committees in recent years, passed swiftly through committee in the newly Democratic-led General Assembly.

“As we enter this new, more inclusive, diverse, and accountable government that mirrors the values of today’s Virginians, it is important that our actions reflect those ideals,” Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said in a statement following the 59-41 vote. “After nearly 100 years of working to put equality into the Constitution, a document that lays out our nation’s most fundamental rights and laws, we are taking the historic step to make ratification a reality. Finally, women will be represented in the Constitution.”

The state Senate, a chamber that has passed the resolution before, voted 28-12 to ratify the amendment shortly after the House vote.

Despite the historic vote, questions remain whether the ERA can be added to the U.S. Constitution. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he’s preparing to take the needed steps to get the ERA added to the Constitution.

“Today is an absolutely historic day for our Commonwealth and a major milestone in the fight for equality in this nation. Women in America deserve to have equality guaranteed in the Constitution and Virginians should be proud that we will be the state that makes it happen,” Herring said in a statement. “As we continue to move swiftly toward ratification, I am preparing to take any steps necessary to ensure that Virginia is recognized as the 38th ratifying state, that the will of Virginians is carried out, and that the ERA is added to our Constitution, as it should be.”

After the proposed amendment passed, 8News spoke with political analyst Rich Meagher about the potential challenges that could prevent the ERA from being added to the Constitution.

“It’s not clear what happens next, but certainly there will be legal challenges,” Meagher said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of open questions and these are constitutional questions, they’re not simple ones, so they’re going to take some time to work their way through the court system and I suspect that it will be a couple years before we find out one way or the other whether this amendment actually gets added to the Constitution.”

Meagher believes a prolonged legal battle, which could lead to the filing of several lawsuits, could ensue if the federal government rejects the ERA’s formal addition to the Constitution.

“I suspect that’s how it will go. It will be governments suing governments in a complicated fashion,” he explained.

Regardless of what happens next, Meagher acknowledged it was a historic day for Virginia.

“The state can at least say that positive change is happening,” he told 8News. “Not everyone agrees with it but it’s still a sense that, big things are happening in the country, they’re happening here.”

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