Virginia General Assembly Ratifies Equal Rights Amendment

Jan 15, 2020

Advocates and lawmakers celebrate passage of the ERA outside the House of Delegates Chamber.
Credit Mallory Noe-Payne/Radio IQ

In a series of votes Wednesday, Virginia approved resolutions to become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

That means enough states have now approved the measure guaranteeing gender equality to enshrine it in the U. S. Constitution.  But more legal battles are likely ahead.

Virginia's House of Delegates voted first Wednesday, approving the resolution with a 59-41 vote.  A message of the result  was then immediately walked to the Senate chamber where the resolution passed 28-12.

Spectators and legislators alike cheered the news.   Nicole Subryan came out of the gallery of the House of Delegates dancing.  “I just could not believe that in the United States of America I have more rights as a black person in the Constitution than as a woman. And I don’t separate those two identities," Subryan noted.  "So why should the Constitution? So I’ve been fighting for this!” 

Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy has been spearheading the charge ratify the ERA. “I know that I stand on the shoulders of all of these women and advocates and organizations that’s fought for this for decades and generations," Carroll Foy said after the vote.  "And so we did it! We’re doing it! Yes!”

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring informs the Senate that the House of Delegates has approved a resolution ratifying the ERA.
Credit Michael Pope

The journey of the ERA is still not over.  The resolutions in the General Assembly still require one more procedural vote.  But its future is less clear nationally.  The amendment was first sent to states in 1972.  Opponents, including the U. S. Department of Justice, have argued that the measure is dead because an approval deadline has long passed.

State Senator Jennifer Kiggans admitted the vote might be purely symbolic because of the ratification deadline.  But the Virginia Beach Republican said she would vote for it anyway.   "I believe it's the right thing to do and the right side of history to be on," she said.