The Equal Rights Amendment passed through both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post, essentially making Virginia the 38th state to ratify the amendment.
The ERA was first proposed in 1923 and introduced in every Congress from then until 1972, when the amendment finally passed. From there, Congress set a deadline of March 22, 1979 for three-quarters of the states to ratify the amendment. As that deadline drew near, Congress passed an extension, allowing states until June 30, 198 to ratify the potential addition to the Constitution, The Post reported. By the new deadline, only 35 states had signed on to the effort.
Today finally saw the 38th state ready to jump on board, but opponents of the ERA now argue that because the deadline is well in the past, the amendment has no shot at being adopted.
If enacted, the ERA would make discrimination based on sex a prohibition of the Constitution as opposed to a matter of law, as it currently stands. Revoking such equality would prove far more difficult, as laws are far easier to change than the Constitution.
Despite the hard-won victory in Virginia this week, the amendment still faces numerous legal hurdles, The Post noted: “[T]he U.S. Justice Department last week issued a finding that the amendment had expired and could no longer be ratified.”
Further, the courts have yet to determine whether prior ratification of the amendment can be rescinded, as five states have attempted to do in years following ratification of the ERA.
As for Virginia, Wednesday’s vote technically does not represent a formal passage of the amendment. “Under parliamentary rules, each chamber still has to approve the other’s version, even though they are identical,” The Post reported. “That process could take days or even weeks, but in this case is considered a formality.”
Before the House took its vote, Del. Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax) held up a photograph of herself with her daughter taken 44 years ago when the two demonstrated in Washington for the ERA’s passage. Watts wore the same sash on Wednesday that she was wearing in the photo.
“It should be ancient history,” Watts said. “Forty-four years is a long time to wait.”