The Equal Rights Amendment cleared the floor of the Virginia Senate for the fifth time in six years. SJ1, sponsored by Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), passed 21-19 on Tuesday on a near-party line vote with most Senate Republicans opposed.
Speaking to the bill on the Senate floor, Senator Surovell said, “Virginia is one of 22 states that currently has gender equality in our Constitution. Section 11, Article 1 of the Constitution of Virginia currently says that, ‘all people have the right to be free from government discrimination on the basis of religious conviction, race, color, sex, or national origin.’ So equal rights have been codified in our Constitution since 1971. This is something that isn’t new to Virginia. It is a Virginia value.”
After the vote, Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) said, “This is something that we have been fighting to advance for decades. True gender equality is not going to be achieved until we amend the U.S. Constitution, and the only way to amend the U.S. Constitution is to ratify the ERA at the state level. We are moving in the right direction. I implore my colleagues in the House to now take this up and do the right thing.”
Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) said, “Gender equality has been in the Virginia Constitution for 40 years, but the same cannot be said at the federal level. Various sitting Supreme Court Justices have in fact maintained that equal treatment on the basis of gender is not included in the Fourteenth Amendment. This is something that is long overdue in Virginia and nationwide.”
The Virginia Senate has repeatedly moved to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment, approving SJ 216 in 2015, SJ 78 in 2014, SJ 130 in 2012 and SJ 537 in 2011. Each of these proposals died in the House.