Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Virginia attorney general withdraws state from ERA lawsuit

People cheering
Crixell Matthews
Women celebrate following Virginia's ratification of the ERA in 2020. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Two years ago, lawmakers voted to make Virginia the 38th and final state needed for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Now the state’s Republican Attorney General is withdrawing Virginia from a lawsuit to have the amendment certified.

Former Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, filed the lawsuit along with attorneys general in Illinois and Nevada to force the U.S. archivist to certify the amendment - which was designed to guarantee equal rights for all Americans, regardless of sex. 

Virginia’s new Republican Attorney General, Jason Miyares, is walking back the state’s support for the amendment in light of court rulings that determined the deadline for ratification has passed.

Last year, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Virginia and other states could not supersede Congress’ ability to set deadlines. And former president Donald Trump’s Department of Justice agreed with that decision. 

“Considering that a Democrat appointed judge, and the Biden administration all concluded that the deadline to ratify the ERA passed decades ago, Virginia will no longer participate in the ERA lawsuit with Illinois and Nevada. Any further participation in this lawsuit would undermine the U.S. Constitution and its amendment process," Miyares said.

The National Archives also said the U.S. archivist would quote “take no action” on the ERA.

Gender equality advocates argue Congress reserved for itself  the ability to extend or eliminate the deadlines for Constitutional amendments. The U.S. House voted to eliminate the ERA’s deadline last March, but the effort has not progressed in the Senate. The legality of a previous Congressional vote to extend the deadline was questioned by federal courts.

Advocates waited nearly a century to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ninety-seven years is too long to wait for equality, said Jeannette Potter when Virginia ratified the amendment in 2020.

“A lady told me there's patience and then there's doormat, and I think we're past the doormat stage at this point,” she said.

Detractors of the ERA have argued it will lead to taxpayer-funded abortions as well as integrated prisons and sports teams. But when Democrats took control of the Statehouse in November of 2019, it all but guaranteed Virginia would pass the ERA. A total of 11 Republicans in the House and Senate voted for Virginia to ratify the ERA.

Editor's note: The first paragraph was revised to clarify that the Attorney General's Office only has withdrawn the state's support of the lawsuit.


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.