The ERA's Passage in Virginia Still Faces an Uphill Battle

Nov 27, 2019

As Democrats prepare to take power in Richmond this January, one of their top priorities will be passing the Equal Rights Amendment. What happens after that?

Here’s the problem with the Equal Rights Amendment: it had a deadline, and the deadline expired back in the 1980s. So even if the Virginia General Assembly passes the ERA next year as expected, Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says it’s a zombie amendment. 

“Can Congress go back and revive a patient who has been dead for 37 years? And I think the answer legally is no,” says Kelsey.

And yet reviving that old amendment is exactly what Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are hoping to do, supporting a bill that would remove the deadline.

Appearing on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU this week, Kaine says there’s no reason amendments should be required to have a deadline. 

“There are amendments in the Constitution, believe it or not, that to get to the number of states to ratify took 100 years," he says. "But when they finally got there it became part of the Constitution.”

But will the ERA get anywhere in a Republican-controlled Senate? Bluntly, Kaine admits, any movement on the bill does not seem likely, not while Republicans are in control of the Senate.

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