Equal Rights Amendment passes first hurdle in VA Senate toward ratification

The Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating that civil rights may not be denied on the basis of one’s sex, passed in the Virginia Senate’s Privileges and Elections Committee, bringing Virginia one step closer to being the 38th and final state needed to ratify the amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The ERA passed the U.S. Senate and then the House of Representatives, and on March 22, 1972. The proposed 27th Amendment to the Constitution was then sent to the states for ratification, according to the ERA’s website. The legislation has been ratified by 37 states — one shy of the 38 states required for ratification of the constitutional amendment, according to the ERA’s website.

The amendment states “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Another brief section of the amendment grants Congress the authority to enforce the provisions of the amendment.

Related story: More than a thousand people take to the streets at Women’s March

State Sen. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac, represents part of Norfolk, the Eastern Shore, and Upper Peninsula. Lewis declared on Facebook last Wednesday he would “proudly” cast his vote once the ERA comes before the full senate.

“It was great to see so many advocates and proponents of passing the ERA around the capitol today, including many from my district,” he wrote online.

Lewis was not on the committee that voted to pass the amendment to the full senate, but is a co-patron of Senate Joint Resolution No. 284, which is the bill calling for the ERA’s ratification.

State Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, is also a co-patron of the resolution and member of the Virginia Senate’s Privileges and Elections Committee and voted to pass the resolution.

The amendment now heads to the state senate floor to be voted on by its 40 senators. The Virginia House of Delegates would also need to pass the amendment in order for it to be ratified.

Its passage in the Virginia House of Delegates would mean the ERA has reached the threshold for ratification, but not by the 1982 deadline set by Congress, according to the ERA’s website. It’s unclear what legal challenges the ERA would face if ratified by Virginia.

Local women will be marching through Downtown Norfolk on Saturday as part of the 2nd Annual series of events known as the “Weekend of Women,” which coincides with the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Organized by a local group called “The Girls Take Granby,” this year’s march will highlight Virginia’s attempt to ratify the ERA.

A full history of the ERA is available, and people can sign-up to volunteer for the Weekend of Women as well.

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