Opinion: Commentary: Equal Rights For Women

Opinion: Commentary: Equal Rights For Women

Last month the Virginia General Assembly, under new barrier-breaking leadership, took the long-awaited step of voting to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Equal Rights Amendment is a very simple amendment to the Constitution. It is just a few words: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

Those few words could have a powerful legal impact, however.

Embedding the text of the ERA in our Constitution would give women in the United States a legal tool to fight everyday discrimination women face. That would include pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and domestic violence. It would provide one national standard to protect against sex discrimination across America.

The move was exciting, not only because of how long Virginia advocates had fought for ratification, but because Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. That put the ERA over the three-fourths threshold required for national ratification.

One of the advocates who worked long for the passage of the ERA, Lisa Sales, was my guest earlier this month for the State of the Union Address.

Some of you may have heard Lisa speak on the panel discussion about the struggle to get equal pay, and reduce the wage gap (including the ERA) at my Annual Women’s Conference and Forum in Arlington last year. A key point Lisa made that sticks with me: “the Equal Rights Amendment can strengthen protections for women who are survivors of sexual violence.”

The ERA enjoys enormous support across the Commonwealth and the country, but unfortunately, opponents in the Trump Administration recently released a legal memo arguing that the passage of a deadline for ratification proposed in the original legislative text invalidates the national adoption of the amendment.

Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring is fighting that determination in court, but in the meantime, the House of Representatives just took action by passing legislation to remove the deadline in question. I gave remarks on the House floor during debate, which was presided over by Virginia Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, before voting for the bill.

There are still hurdles ahead, but I will continue to do everything I can to secure passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

It’s long past time to enact this Amendment to guarantee equal rights for women.