Virginia debates fate of Equal Rights Amendment

While we are all focused so heavily on the turmoil and calls for resignation surrounding Virginia’s Governor Northam, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, the General Assembly is racing the clock to get its work done before the scheduled end of the session Saturday.

One issue still to be decided is the fate of the Equal Rights Amendment. Congress passed it in 1971. On its face it seems straightforward enough: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Despite its seeming simplicity, the ERA has not been ratified by the required 38 states. Thirty-seven have, and Virginia could become the magic number and make history in the process.

The ERA has flown mostly below the radar because of Northam, Fairfax and Herring (except for Monday when a female activist was arrested for indecent exposure when she bared her breast while recreating the Virginia state seal outside the Capitol). But it faces a critical day Wednesday.

It’s passed the Senate, as it has before, but is stalled in the House. Some delegates are trying a procedural move to get it to the floor for a vote. Wednesday is the earliest day that procedural move could be brought up.

Virginia’s once proud political history from the Bill of Rights to electing the nation’s first African-American governor now seems tainted to many because of a blackface photo and allegations of sexual assault.

Could ratification of the ERA show the world a different side of Virginia politics than we have seen recently? We will soon see.

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