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Equal Rights Amendment Opponents Get Support From Trump Administration

byron at era press conference
Kathy Byron (R-Bedford) joins The Family Foundation of Virginia and other conservative groups to voice opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. (Photo: Patrick Larsen/VPM)

Virginia lawmakers are expected to move quickly to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment this session, becoming the 38th and final state needed to add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If passed, the ERA would ban discrimination on the basis of sex, enshrining gender equality in the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has released an opinion that says that effort is in vain. 

Ahead of the session Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Council released a  memo that says the ERA is no longer in states’ hands, because it failed to secure ratifications from the required three quarters of state legislatures ahead of a Congress-imposed deadline.

Many conservative groups, including The Family Foundation of Virginia, are opposed to the amendment. They say it will do more to harm women than to advance equality.

“We’re essentially standing here blocking something that should not be valid before any state legislature,” said President Victoria Cobb. “And certainly we would hope our Commonwealth wouldn’t be entertaining things that can’t legitimately move forward.”

Proponents of the ERA say it is legally viable. This November, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee  approved a bill that would remove the deadline for ratification. 

The ERA Coalition said in a statement, the Justice Department’s opinion “is not binding on Congress, the courts, or the states that have expressed their ongoing will to give women constitutional equality.”

In a statement, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he’ll fight to ensure the amendment is added to the constitution. 

“The fact that Republican attorneys general are suing to block the ERA, and that they now have the support of the Trump Administration, is absolutely repugnant,” Herring said. 

This is the first year the ERA is all but certain to clear the full General Assembly, which is now in Democratic control.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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