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Activists surging State Capitol to encourage ERA passage

lawProponents of equality launched a weeklong surge Monday to encourage state lawmakers to make history by becoming the 38th and last state needed to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), first drafted in 1923.

The demonstrations build on a weekend that featured marches, rallies and pro-ERA events around the state, including Arlington, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Williamsburg.

Supporters from across the state and America are calling on House Speaker Kirk Cox to allow the Equal Rights Amendment to come to the floor for a vote, where the legislation is expected to pass with bipartisan support. The Virginia Senate has already passed the ERA, voting 26-14 on January 15, Martin Luther King’s birthday.

The grassroots, nonpartisan campaign VAratifyERA brought hundreds of citizens and allied groups to the Virginia State Capitol to call for passage of the legislation. The week kicked-off with a press conference Monday across from the Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson, at 9:30am. Shortly after the conference, supporters learned Delegate Mark Cole (R – Fredericksburg) had assigned the resolutions to Subcommittee #1. The subcommittee meeting is at 7:30am, January 22. The full Privileges & Elections Committee meets Friday. All eyes are on the outcomes of those two meetings.

Kati Horning, VAratifyERA campaign organizer: “We fully expect the House P&E Subcommittee #1 will kill the ERA Resolutions tomorrow. However, our understanding is the full P&E committee can reconsider the resolution even if it has been killed in subcommittee.”

Speaking at the press conference, Anna Bradley, VAratifyERA Coordinator for Resolutions, read from Martin Luther King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which says: “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be labourers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of stagnation.’” Bradley also called on Speaker Cox to ratify the ERA. “Send it to the House floor today!”

Other press conference speakers included: Sherry Stone of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women (Prince William Chapter); Chris McMilan of Men with a Purpose from Randolph Macon; Cydnie Brown of Alpha Kappa Alpha (Tau Delta Chapter – Randolph Macon); and Vo Carpenter of the Chesterfield County NAACP.

“The Virginia House of Delegates has a rare opportunity to make history, and we are here to support the women, and men, of Virginia who are bravely advocating for equality,” said Bettina Hager, D.C. Director of the national organization Equal Rights Coalition.

Post press conference, supporters marched to the Capitol where they lined the building’s historic stairways and halls before observing the House session where Delegate David Yancey (R – Newport News) gave an impassioned speech in support. Should the resolution not be resolved this week, advocates are planning further demonstrations on Jan. 28th and Feb. 5th. The legislative session for Virginia closes the third week of February.

In the last 18 months, Nevada and Illinois both ratified the amendment. Congress originally passed the ERA in 1972 with a deadline, which was extended and then expired in 1982. Legal experts note that the Constitution does not provide Congress with the power to create deadlines; a position backed in a formal 2018 opinion from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. Herring spoke in support of the resolution over the weekend: “Wouldn’t it be great if Virginia put us over the top at 38!”

“The fact is that 81% of Virginians approve of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and we hope that the House of Delegates will allow this bill to come to a vote,” noted ERA Coalition CEO and Co-President Carol Jenkins. “This is a profound moment in U.S. history, with cultural momentum on our side.”

Demonstrating support with are representatives and members of Equality Now, the National Organization for Women, American Association of University Women, ACLU of Virginia, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. (Virginia’s Social Task Force), League of Women Voters, Virginia NAACP State Conference, Virginia NOW, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women (Prince William Chapter), and the National Congress of Black Women (Prince William and Richmond Chapters), Virginia Education Alliance, Temple Beth-El, League of Women Voters of VA, Interfaith Community of Greater Richmond, Network NoVA, VA AFL-CIO and Rural Caucus.

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