RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia arrived on the verge of becoming the 38th crucial state on Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in what was seen as a momentous victory for the women’s rights movement, although it is far from being Surely the measure will be added sometime. to the Constitution of the United States.
The House of Representatives and the state Senate approved the proposed amendment with bipartisan support, more than a generation after Congress sent the ERA to the states for ratification in 1972. Each chamber must now approve the resolution of the other, but The final step is considered almost certain.
The amendments to the Constitution must be ratified by three-fourths of the states, or 38. But if this will become the 28th amendment, it may have to be decided in court because the deadline established by Congress for the ratification of the term is over. It was in 1982 and because five states that approved it in the 1970s have rescinded their support.
Even so, the twin vows had a symbolic weight and showed how much Virginia has changed, which was once solidly conservative, a place that defeated the ERA over and over again.
Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, sponsor of the ERA measure of the House of Representatives, told her colleagues that they were taking “the vote of her life.”
“One hundred and sixty million women and girls across the country are waiting and will be forever changed by what happens in this body today,” he said.
ERA supporters had lined up hours in advance to get seats in the gallery. Among those who gathered were Donna Granski, 73, who wore a purple, white and yellow girdle covered with ERA buttons, some of his “old” collection. Granksi said he was surprised when he moved to Virginia in the late 1970s and learned that he had not ratified the effectiveness. She had been pressing him ever since.
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“We feel we are marching to the top of the mountain,” he said.
ERA advocates say it would consecrate equality for women in the Constitution, offering stronger protections in cases of sexual discrimination. They also argue that the ERA would give Congress a firmer ground to pass laws against discrimination.
Opponents warn that it would erode common sense protections for women, such as work accommodations during pregnancy. They also fear that supporters of abortion rights may use it to override abortion restrictions on the grounds that they discriminate against women.
Virginia has undergone seismic political changes in recent years due to the increasing diversity and the growing activism and political power of women. Democrats regained control of the legislature in the November elections and made ERA approval a priority after Republicans blocked it for years.
The ERA had passed the Virginia Senate in previous years with bipartisan support, but had never before arrived at the House for a floor vote.
It was approved there with a 59-41 vote chaired by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, the first female speaker in the House in the 400-year history of the chamber. Viewers in the gallery burst into cheers when she announced the result. The Senate approved it 28-12.
Republican Del. Margaret Ransone, who voted against the ERA, emphasized the missed deadline and said: “I wish I could say that this dedication and hard work have not been at all.”
Last week, the US Department of Justice. UU. He issued a legal memo stating that because the deadline has expired, it is too late for states to ratify the ERA now. The only option now for ERA supporters is to try to start the ratification process again in Congress, according to the memo.
The National Archives, which certify the ratification of the constitutional amendments, said they will comply with that opinion “unless a final court order indicates otherwise.”
At least two lawsuits have already been filed, one filed last month by Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota to block the amendment and another filed last week to clear the way for adoption. Meanwhile, Congress Democrats are working to pass a measure that eliminates the deadline.
Among those who disagree with the opinion of the Department of Justice is Erwin Chemerinsky, a leading constitutional law scholar and dean of the Berkeley Law School. He said Congress can set a deadline and change one too.
Douglas Johnson, senior policy advisor to the National Right to Life anti-abortion group, backed the Justice Department’s position and said that if the ERA was reintroduced, abortion opponents would probably try to review it to specify that it could not be used to override state restrictions by abortion
There is a precedent for Congress to impose deadlines in the ratification process. But no deadline was set in the case of Amendment 27, which aims to restrict members of Congress from raising their own salary. It was ratified in 1992, or 203 years after being presented to Congress in 1789.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority and former president of the National Organization for Women, said it was “tragic” for a generation of women to miss the protections the ERA would have offered.
But Smeal, who was a leader in boosting the ERA in the 70s and 80s, said the long struggle has led women to run for political office, where they have increasingly made gains across the country.
“Every time they make us fight harder, we get stronger,” he said.