January 22, 2019
On party-line vote, Va. House panel kills ERA
Equal Rights Amendment supporters pack the subcommittee meeting Tuesday in Richmond.
By Georgia Geen
This resolution has come after this committee year after year, meaning we are very aware of this resolution and it’s a thoroughly understood issue. I don’t need words on a piece of paper — God made us all equal.
— Del. Margaret Ransone (R-Westmoreland County), subcommittee chairman
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — A House of Delegates subcommittee killed four bills to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment on a 4-2, party-line vote Tuesday amid verbal conflicts between the chairwoman and members of the audience.
The decision to “pass by indefinitely” HJ 577, HJ 579, HJ 583 and SJ 284 marks the end for efforts to pass legislation ratifying the ERA — a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution preventing sex discrimination — unless it is brought up in the full House Privileges and Elections Committee on Friday.
“I think that with this type of attention that it’s getting, I think there’s an expectation that it will be brought to full committee on Friday,” said Del. Mark Sickles of Fairfax, one of two Democrats on the subcommittee.
The subcommittee’s chairwoman — Del. Margaret Ransone (R-Westmoreland) — was vocal about her opposition to the ERA, sparking tensions with the crowd. Before the vote, Del. Ransone asked those in support of the ERA to stand, and most people in the audience rose.
“This resolution has come after this committee year after year, meaning we are very aware of this resolution and it’s a thoroughly understood issue,” Del. Ransone said. “I don’t need words on a piece of paper — God made us all equal.”
In her remarks, Del. Ransone referenced Eileen Davis, co-founder of the pro-ERA group Women Matter and mother of U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, by name.
ERA supporters “have disrespected me year after year,” Del. Ransone said. “And, Eileen, you have brought young people and young women to my office and told them that they’re not worthy. They are worthy.”
Del. Ransone said that she is respected by the male members of the Republican Caucus and that women “deserve every opportunity in life that a man does.”
“Women deserve to be in the Constitution,” Ms. Davis said from the audience in response.
Del. Ransone and fellow Republican Dels. Hyland “Buddy” Fowler Jr. of Hanover, Riley Ingram of Hopewell and John McGuire of Henrico voted to kill each of the resolutions to ratify the ERA. Del. Sickles and Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg of Henrico voted to keep the resolutions alive.
The proposed amendment says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The ERA was first introduced by suffragette Alice Paul in 1923 but made little progress until the 1970s, when 35 states ratified it, three short of the 38 needed to make an amendment part of the U.S. Constitution. Efforts subsided after the ratification deadline imposed by Congress passed in 1982. However, the Constitution does not specifically give Congress the right to put a deadline on amendment ratification.
A campaign led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly is credited with halting the movement and resulting in five states rescinding their ratifications, a right not granted by the Constitution.
“Alice Paul said, 100 years ago, ‘Unless women are prepared to fight politically, they should be prepared to be ignored politically,’” Ms. Davis said. “And we’re not prepared [to be ignored] anymore; time is up on that.”
Supporters of ratifying the ERA had high hopes after the Senate passed SJ 284 in a 26-14 vote last week. Seven Republican senators, including Jill Vogel (R-27th/Upperville) joined the 19 Democratic members in voting to ratify the ERA.
But it was a different story when the issue moved to the House.
Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Stafford), who sponsored HJ 579, called the subcommittee vote “one of the most important … that we will take in our lifetime.”
“The same arguments that are being made are the arguments that were made for segregation,” Del. Carroll Foy said. “We want to be on the right side of this issue.”
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Tony Bentley · January 24, 2019 at 11:41 am
Eleanor Roosevelt - By the 1950s, Roosevelt's international role as spokesperson for women led her to stop publicly criticizing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), although she never supported it. In the early 1960s, she announced that, due to unionization, she believed the ERA was no longer a threat to women as it once may have been and told supporters that they could have the amendment if they wanted it. In 1961, President Kennedy's undersecretary of labor, Esther Peterson, proposed a new Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Kennedy appointed Roosevelt to chair the commission, with Peterson as director. This was Roosevelt's last public position. She died just before the commission issued its report. It concluded that female equality was best achieved by recognition of gender differences and needs, and not by an Equal Rights Amendment.
sharlene · January 24, 2019 at 9:03 am
Excellent points, Cammie. I agree.
RGLJA · January 23, 2019 at 5:26 pm
The ERA actually failed because not enough WOMEN supported it. Most women today weren't even alive when the ERA was initially passed by Congress in 1972 and debated for a decade. So they may not know that it was mostly women who weren't sure if they wanted the ERA or not. The deadline for ERA ratification was extended by Congress (questionable legality), which only made matters worse because some states rescinded their previous ratifications (also questionable legality). Now decades later, Virginia wants to be the final state needed for ratification (extremely questionable legality). The Supreme court hasn't spoken yet.
The first problem is that the ERA does not protect women. The word "women" is not even included in the The Amendment. It only says there can be no law that distinguishes the rights of one sex versus the other. The problem is that we already have thousands of laws that were made specifically to protect women; e.g. the military draft of men only, certain sexual assault laws, laws defending women against deadbeat fathers, and most significantly, the laws that specifically require affirmative action for women in the workplace that affirmatively support the advancement of women. You can be certain that the courts will be overrun for decades with challenges to any law or practice that can now be interpreted as discrimination against the rights of men, rather than commonsense protection for women.
The ERA has certain risks, but what exactly are the benefits? Women seem to be able to do just about anything they want to do. They challenge discrimination and routinely win in court. Employers bend over backwards to attract and retain women, partly because its the law, and partly because it makes good sense anyway. What about Equal Pay for Equal Work? Again, it is already illegal to pay men more than women, ever since The Equal Pay Act was signed into law by John F Kennedy more than half a century ago. Has it helped? Yes. But can the ERA help more. How? The ERA would merely affirm such a law is constitutional, which was never challenged anyway.
The polls decades ago always showed men favored the ERA more than women. But the debate today comes again from fierce young women who comically claim they are boldly fighting men for their rightful place in the world, just as they did decades ago. They should worry more about their wise sisters who oppose them. The ERA might mostly embolden the fathers who lose their children and money in divorce, the men accused falsely of rape, the men who get passed over in order to promote women, the men who do dirty jobs unfit for women, the fathers who want equal paternity leave, and so on. An ERA might embolden men for new laws as much or more than women. Is that what we all want? To gain what exactly?
Cammie Rodgers · January 22, 2019 at 4:59 pm
God made us all equal is a sad joke of a statement!! But coming from a privileged woman it figures. Tell that to the African Americans, the Native Americans, the disenfranchised, and the poor. Where do people get the idea that God made us all equal? Let's start speaking truthful statements, not some brainwashed gobble-de-goop being taught in Sunday School. Remember there is a division of church and state in our government, and this statement by Del. Margaret Ransone is proof that people are being mislead.
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