The Democrats’ newfound control over the Virginia legislature could make it easier for changes to be made to the Equal Rights Amendment, which would ban discrimination based on sex and guarantee equality for women under the Constitution.
Earlier this year, the state Senate voted to advance the ERA, a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in several areas, including divorce, property, and employment. However, the bipartisan progress was blocked in the House of Delegates, where Republicans stopped a full floor vote, according to CNN. This left the duty on Democrats to continue the process and make Virginia the 38th state to support the amendment. As they celebrated their win in Richmond, top Virginia Democrats promised the ERA would be a priority in 2020. “One thing we are going to need to do right away is pass the Equal Rights Amendment in a Virginia,” state Senate Democratic leader Dick Saslaw told a cheering crowd. “It’s high time we include the women of this country in the Constitution of the United States.”
The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress almost 100 years ago but remained in legal limbo. If finally passed, it would ensure that everyone is given equal constitutional rights regardless of sex, which would completely revamp legislation and legal decisions on sex discrimination, pay wages, and gender-based violence. This would also mean women could be forced to join the military as well as allow greater abortion access.
“Tonight, we are finally within reach of true equality for girls and women in the United States, thanks to the voters of Virginia and supporters across the country,” Jessica Neuwirth and Carol Jenkins, both presidents of The ERA Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday. “In January of 2020, these elected officials will take up ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. They stand a very good chance of becoming the 38th and final state we need to ratify this amendment into the U.S. Constitution.” Ratification in Virginia won’t mean ERA will be legalized throughout the nation, but it will be one step closer to being added to the Constitution.