It’s 2019, and despite the fact that some people continue to insist that women and men receive equal treatment now, gender equality is still not protected by the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the Equal Rights Amendment, which would codify equal rights for all genders, still needs to pass in one more state before it can become national law. Disappointingly, Virginia recently had the chance to become that state, but lawmakers stopped the amendment in its tracks.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that yesterday, February 21st, the Republican-majority Virginia House of Delegates prevented the House from voting on the ERA. In a split 50-50 vote, lawmakers opted not to change the rules so that the amendment could be brought to the floor, killing it in the House. State senators voted 26-14 to pass the amendment earlier in February. House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert defended the decision to the Times-Dispatch, arguing that in states that have adopted the ERA, the amendment has allowed abortion rights to expanded. He dismissed the idea that Republican lawmakers were sexist, accusing ERA advocates of “fear-mongering.”
Equalrightsamendment.org notes that the ERA was first introduced in 1923, and Congress finally passed the amendment in 1972. However, only 35 states adopted it before the 1982 deadline—three short of the 38 needed for the amendment to take effect. Since then, activists have continued to fight for the ERA to be ratified. Illinois became the 37th state to adopt the amendment in May 2018, leaving just one state standing between the ERA and national adoption. The current version of the ERA reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
It’s incredibly frustrating that this fight has been going on for nearly 100 years. All people—regardless of gender—deserve to have their rights protected by the Constitution. We’re disheartened by the latest vote in Virginia, but we know ERA advocates will continue to fight.