Virginia Is the Latest Chapter in the Nearly 50-Year Saga of the Equal Rights Amendment

Illustration for article titled Virginia Is the Latest Chapter in the Nearly 50-Year Saga of the Equal Rights Amendment
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In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was first drafted in 1923 and reads, rather simply: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” But because the United States is a bad country and constitutional amendments require ratification by 38 states, the amendment has been held up for nearly 50 years.


The amendment has currently been ratified by 37 states—earlier this year, Illinois became the most recent state to sign on—and now advocates in Virginia are hoping to make their state the final push to get the amendment through.
According to NPR, a group of activists and state legislators have been touring across Virginia for the last 10 days trying to drum up support for the effort.

“This is a human rights issue, and we can even say that this is an economic issue,” Virginia Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, a co-sponsor of the resolution, recently told 23ABC News. “There is great legal basis that says, you know, equal pay for equal work. Well, when you talk about that, you’re really talking about the Equal Rights Amendment.”

Unsurprisingly, the very same anti-women, anti-abortion, sexist dynamics that have blocked the ERA for decades continue to plague the amendment today. (Thank you, ghost of Phyllis Schlafly.) And, as NPR reports, many detractors continue to use the excuse that the deadline to ratify the amendment passed us by in 1982, while supporters argue that Congress can (and has) extend or rescind the deadline if it wants to.

There is no question that advocates in Virginia face an uphill battle—under the state’s GOP-led legislature, ratification already failed earlier this year. While the midterms were historic for the number of women elected to Congress, even the most basic things remain a fight.

As Foy put it to NPR, “We have been on the wrong side of history for too long.”



Last week I read Lind Hirschman’s Sisters in Law about the careers of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A lot of it was about how the failure of the ERA to pass in the 1970s shaped their legal strategies. However, by the end it emphasized how fragile many of those victories were. I would be thrilled if we passed it now. I’m worried it is necessary to protect women from all the “originalist” judges with which this administration is packing the court.