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ERA Passes

Dozens of women in sashes scrambled up the stairs and into an elevator Wednesday at the Virginia State Capitol. 

Jeanne Repetto was visiting Richmond from Gainesville, Florida. 

“The biggest thing on bucket list is to pass ERA.”

They were trying to get a good seat in the House gallery, where a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment was up for a vote.

Gender Equality advocates have waited nearly a century to add the ERA to the U.S. Constitution.  

That’s  too long to wait for equality, said Jeannette Potter.  

“A lady told me there’s patience and there’s doormat. And I think we’re past the doormat stage at this point.” 

Trish Wallace was wearing the Virginia state flag as a cape. It depicts the state motto of Virginia. Sic Semper Tyrannis. Thus always to tyrants. It’s a nod, she says, to past Republican efforts to block the measure. 

“The leadership in the House last year would not allow it to reach a floor vote. And so we felt like that was a very tyrannical maneuver to deny the democratic process.”

Conservative groups like the Family Foundation say the ERA will lead to taxpayer-funded abortions and integrated prisons and sports teams.  

Democrats took control of the state house In November, all but guaranteeing Virginia would pass the ERA. The vote in the House of Delegates would be overseen by the state’s first female and Jewish speaker of the House, Eileen Filler Corn.  

“Ayes 59, Nayes, 41, abstention zero. For the women of Virginia and the women of America, the resolution has finally passed. (Cheers)

[FADE OUT]

The measure was later passed in the Senate by a vote of 28 to 12. In the end, 11 Republicans voted to ratify the ERA in Virginia.  

Groups rallied outside to celebrate. 

“Final state! Final state! Final state is 38!”

The House and Senate will take one more procedural vote on the ERA, as soon as today. And then it will be sent to the U.S. archivist. But whether it will be added to the Constitution is a fight that’s far from over. 

“This is really the beginning.”

Tara Casey is law professor at the University of Richmond. She says long legal battles are up ahead. 

The Justice Department released an opinion last week that said Congress has to restart the ratification process because the deadline lapsed in 1979 and it’s no longer pending before the states. 

But Casey says Congress already moved the deadline once before. 

“There’s a really strong argument to be made that Congress reserved for itself the ability to extend or eliminate the deadline.”

Attorneys General in Louisiana, Alabama and South Dakota recently filed a lawsuit to block the ERA from taking that final step. But the group Equal Means Equal* filed a countersuit last week. 

Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger co-sponsored legislation to remove the expiration date. It passed the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in November. 

Spanberger said in a previous statement, quote “there’s no time limit on equality”. 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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