In the United States, women's rights advocates have been working to get women constitutionally-guaranteed legal equality for nearly 100 years. But while the Equal Rights Amendment was approved by Congress in 1972, it has yet to be ratified by the required number of states some 46 years later. Now, however, a coalition of lawmakers hopes to change that by making Virginia the last state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
As NPR reported, a coalition of bipartisan lawmakers wrapped up VAratifyERA, a 10-day bus tour of Virginia, on Sunday. The tour aimed to drum up support for a bill that, if passed, would make Virginia the last state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
"Virginia has been on the wrong side of history for too long," Jennifer Carroll Foy, a Democratic Virginia delegate co-sponsoring the bill with Republican state Sen. Glen Sturtevant, said in a statement on Twitter last week. "We have fought against desegregation, interracial marriage and giving women the right to vote. Now it's time to be on the right side of history and be the 38th state to ratify the #ERA."
If Virginia does end up ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, it would be the 38th state to have done so (In June, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the proposed amendment). According to the Federal Register, a proposed Constitutional amendment officially becomes a part of the Constitution when it is ratified by three-fourths, or 38, of the States.
But while Foy and Sturtevant hope to see their bill pass in the 2019 legislative session, this won't be the first time lawmakers in Virginia have attempted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. According to The Washington Post, Virginia's state Senate has passed measures to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment five different times since 2011. Virginia's House of Delegates, however, has never passed any of those measures.
What's more, Virginia's Senate Rules Committee voted 9 to 5 against advancing a measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in February of this year. At the time, at least two members of the committee reportedly claimed ratification efforts were "improper" as the proposed amendment's congressional deadline had already passed, according to The Washington Post.
Congress' deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment expired in 1982, when only 35 of the required 38 states had ratified it. But advocates of the amendment argue there is precedent for Congress to extend the ratification deadline and maintain the legal viability of the Equal Rights Amendment's ratification.
But some Virginia delegates have argued that it's important to fight to guarantee women's legal equality despite the deadline. "It's necessary to pass this because it will give us the protection that we need in the constitution as women, but we do not have," Virginia Del. Kelly Fowler told CBS affiliate WTVR.
Others argue that passing a measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment is more a message of the state's values and thinking. "This is a statement about what Virginia wants to say," Virginia Del. Sam Rasoul told The Roanoke Times. "Virginia should pass the ERA and let the courts worry about the legitimacy."