Virginia Senate backs ERA: Commonwealth becomes 38th state to ratify
The Virginia Senate voted Monday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, pushing the constitutional question to Washington.
The Trump administration said earlier this month that the effort initiated in the 1970s to pass the Equal Rights Amendment had already timed out.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a legal opinion declaring that the deadline to ratify the amendment, backed by 35 states in the 1970s, three states short of what was needed to ratify, has long since passed.
Nevada approved the ERA in 2017, and Illinois did the same in 2018, leaving the amendment one state vote of approval short, assuming no time deadline had passed.
Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate approved the amendment in 1972, with a seven-year deadline for the necessary number of states to sign on.
That deadline was later extended to 1982.
The House Judiciary Committee voted in November to retroactively remove to the ratification deadline.
Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel wrote in the opinion that while Congress “had the constitutional authority” to set the deadline, it cannot now reopen the issue.
“Congress may not revive a proposed amendment after the deadline has expired,” Engel wrote.
The State Senate vote was 27-12 in favor of ratification. The House of Delegates had voted 59-41 to ratify back on Jan. 15.
Attorney General Mark Herring issued a statement Monday afternoon promising to wage a legal fight to ensure ratification if necessary.
“Even before the General Assembly cast their final votes for this historic amendment, challengers were claiming that Virginia’s efforts were futile. To those naysayers and opponents of women’s equality I say: do not underestimate Virginia. Do not underestimate this movement. If you throw up roadblocks, this movement has shown time and again they will go over, around, or just straight through them,” Herring said.
“I expect the archivist to fulfill his responsibility under the law, but if he refuses to certify that the ERA has been added to the Constitution, I will take action to ensure the will of Virginians is carried out. Women have suffered as a result of discrimination and inequality in this country for centuries and I will not stop until I have exhausted every option to ensure that they will never have to face those inequities again,” Herring said.
Story by Chris Graham