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Virginia Becomes Battleground Over Equal Rights Amendment

It’s been 46 years since Congress sent the Equal Rights Amendment to the states for ratification.

Now, all these years later, Virginia may end up playing a key role in finally adopting the ERA.

Richard Nixon was in the White House and Linwood Holton was in Virginia’s Executive Mansion when Congress sent the Equal Rights Amendment to the states for ratification. The effort lagged for decades. But earlier this year, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the ERA. Now leaders on both sides of the argument are targeting Virginia as a potential 38th state — the magic number needed to put the ERA over the top and add it to the Constitution.

Victoria Cobb at the Family Foundation says opponents are intensifying their efforts in Virginia. “There’s no question that the silent player in the ERA is abortion," Cobb says, "and that is why our efforts to oppose it have intensified.”

But Democratic Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy says Virginia has been on the wrong side of history too long. “Virginia fought against a woman’s right to vote, desegregation and interracial marriage. Now is our time to rectify an error in the Constitution, where women can actually be protected under the law and treated as equals to men,” Carroll Foy says.

That’s why she plans on introducing a resolution in the next General Assembly to pass the ERA, a debate that's certain to become one of the hottest political arguments when lawmakers return to the Capitol.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.