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January 7, 2019 · OPINION

Virginia finally should pass Equal Rights Amendment

By Max N. Hall
Marshall

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” In the year 2019, this seems a pretty benign statement, and yet here in Virginia, the issue is still in in doubt. In my mind, the question is, “Which side of history are we Virginians going to be on?”

We have seen in the news and on the editorial pages of our papers the resurgent push for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment here in Virginia. In fact, the Virginia Senate has passed the amendment in 2011, ’12, ’14, ’15 and ’16. It is only our House of Delegates that still has to ratify. It should do so this session.

Yes, there are legal questions about whether the amendment has been rescinded by other states and whether the deadline for passage by 1982 is enforceable. Those are issues for the court, not for the Virginia legislature, to decide. Our state attorney general released a letter indicating the door is still open for Congress to remove the deadline and count ratifications happening now. Only one more state is needed. Nevada and Illinois ratified the Amendment in 2017 and 2018. Virginia should do the same.

Our local legislators have varying opinions about passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Republican Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel has supported passage in the past, voting yes in 2016. Democrat Del. Elizabeth Guzman has promised to support the amendment this year. Republican Del. Mark Cole, whose committee will initially address the issue, says he is against the amendment, while Republican Del. Michael Webert is undecided.

Mr. Webert says that he is studying the issue, and I know he has received visits from local nonpartisan groups such as the Fauquier County League of Women Voters. I urge him to consider and agree with what his constituents are saying.

I believe families will be strongest when women, who are the primary or only breadwinners for 40 percent of families with children under age 18, have full constitutional rights.

Eighty-one percent of Virginians support the Equal Rights Amendment, according to a recent poll by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University. Elected officials, if true to their oaths, are obligated to respect and reflect the wishes of their constituents. Otherwise they’re not worth the paper their ballots were cast on.

Bravery, not fear, is supposed to drive the decisions of this nation. Turn away from those who would make you fearful. Turn towards those who inspire our best selves. That is our future as a country.

I urge all citizens to contact their elected representatives and make your feelings known. Contact Mr. Webert and urge him to vote yes. Contact Mr. Cole, and urge him to let the issue go to the full House of Delegates for a vote.

I am a 63-year-old white male, and it’s plain to me that the right thing to do is pass the ERA. My only question is whether Virginia will be on the right side of history on this issue.
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Tony Bentley · January 7, 2019 at 1:23 pm
The only new amendment we need as a country is one limiting the powers of the POTUS and term limits for Congress.
RGLJA · January 7, 2019 at 10:02 am
The author of this article should have explained why the ERA was never ratified. Do you really believe some states just don't want equal rights for women? That's ridiculous. Of course we all do. In every state across the entire nation, women can already do practically anything and everything they want to do, with tremendous support legally, politically, and socially. In addition, women already have numerous affirmative explicit support protections in law. There has never been a better time to be a woman in the USA.

The reason the ERA was never ratified is that there isn't a clear case for it, and there is real risk in doing so. Even feminists were never fully united in support for the ERA, fearing that many legal protections and affirmative support for women would necessarily be overturned if the ERA was ratified. Eventually, many states rescinded their early ratification, after the implications of the ERA were understood.

In any case, the deadline has passed, and ratification by 3/4 all the states is necessary before it can become an Amendment to the Constitution. But the problems remain. It will be women who are most skeptical of support for the ERA when they understand what they must give up, and how little they can possibly gain with an ERA.
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