Post submitted by Ryan Carey-Mahoney Senior Writer, Online Strategy
Over the last few weeks, you may have heard the words “Equal Rights Amendment” more than you ever have before — and for good reason.
The Virginia General Assembly recently ratified the amendment and took a step forward in affirming the importance of equality under the law. Since this historic moment has been almost a century in the making, here’s a breakdown of what’s happening and where we’ll go from here.
What is the Equal Rights Amendment?
This proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution seeks to guarantee the equal legal rights of all Americans, regardless of their sex. First introduced in the early 1920s, the ERA has pushed forward slowly — passing out of Congress in 1972 and ratified by the required 38 states over the subsequent decades that followed.
In order to make it an official amendment, legislatures in three-fourths of the states need to ratify it. Of the 38 states required, 35 ratified it in the five years after it passed out of Congress — and three (Nevada, Illinois and Virginia) more ratified it from 2017 to today.
So, it passes?
While the ERA has hit the 38-state threshold, adoption of the amendment isn’t quite that simple.
Opponents of the ERA argue that the deadline set by Congress expired in 1982 before three-fourths of the states ratified it. There are also questions of whether states can rescind their ratification as some have tried to do. Yet, those who support the ERA are pushing forward and calling for its adoption, as all required thresholds were met.
As of now, there are federal lawsuits representing both sides of this argument.
Why is Virginia so important?
Well, for a myriad of reasons. The most obvious, of course, is that it is the 38th state to ratify the ERA but that’s not all. Last year, the Human Rights Campaign and other incredible advocates and state leaders on the ground worked to flip the state legislature — and succeeded!
Because of our work to elect a pro-equality majority in both chambers, we are seeing equality being pushed forward on a national scale with the ERA, and statewide with key legislation.
What else is going on in Virginia?
As you read this, the Virginia General Assembly is weighing several pro-equality bills. This includes the Virginia Values Act (SB868/HB1663), which would provide comprehensive non-
discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and expand protections for all Virginians.
Should the Virginia Values Act become law, Virginia will be the first state in the south to have non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. It will also be the first state in over a decade to add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing non-discrimination law, as well as the first state in 12 years to pass a public accommodations law (protecting all Virginians) from scratch.
HRC is working with leaders in the General Assembly and Virginians on the ground to get this passed before the state’s legislative session ends in early-March. Meanwhile, we’ll continue supporting work to advance the ERA and ensure it’s added to the Constitution.
For more updates on key legislation like the ERA and the Virginia Values Act, text JOIN to 472472. We’ll keep you up-to-date on key legislation in your area and breaking LGBTQ news.