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One State Lawmaker to Congress: It's Time to Add the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution

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Andrew Harnik/AP
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AP
Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan speaks in support for the Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Last year, Virginia ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, a state Senator is taking the fight to Congress.

Testifying before a House panel Thursday, State Senator Jennifer McClellan told members of Congress that the time has come to add a new amendment to the Constitution, one that says equality of rights under law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

"It is time for me to stop fighting the same fights that my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother had to fight," McClellan said. "It is time for me tell my children, Jackson and Samantha, that the United States Constitution guarantees them both equality under the law."

After Democrats won control of the General Assembly, lawmakers approved the Equal Rights Amendment, making Virginia the 38th state to ratify the ERA. Congressman Gerry Connolly is a Democrat from Fairfax County who says that put the amendment over the threshold of states needed to ratify.

"I contend based on this testimony, that the ERA is now an amendment to the Constitution duly ratified by the 38th state, the Commonwealth of Virginia," Connolly says.

The final decision on ratification comes down to the archivist of the United States, who is currently relying on a Trump-era opinion that the deadline had passed years ago. Advocates for the ERA are urging the Biden Justice Department to issue a new opinion or for Congress to take action making it clear that equal rights have no deadline.

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. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.