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N.Va. legislators sign on to effort resuscitating ERA

Measure unlikely to find much traction in Congress
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Members of the Northern Virginia delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on to new legislation that would eliminate the 1982 deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, potentially adding the measure to the U.S. Constitution.

The ERA died just short of obtaining the requisite 38 state ratifications, but since 1982 several additional states (including Virginia) have ratified it.

U.S. Reps. Don Beyer (D-8th), Jennifer Wexton (D-10th) and Gerald Connolly (D-11th) were among 133 cosponsors of the bill – all Democrats – in what likely was simply a symbolic act, since the measure is unlikely to pass this year.

The measure – HJ Res 25 – is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Aryanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

The Equal Rights Amendment had been introduced each session of Congress from 1923-72 before finally being approved and sent out to the states for action. By 1973, a total of 30 state legislatures had ratified the measure, but its mojo then stalled.

In Virginia, the ERA became one of the focal points of each session of the General Assembly in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Passage always seemed close at hand, but sufficient votes never materialized.

During the brief period several years ago when Democrats controlled both the governorship and the legislature, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the measure. That act set off celebrations in some quarters, but given the fact the deadline placed on ratification had expired decades before, few expected Virginia’s vote to actually add the measure to the Constitution.

(While some states have approved ratification since the 1982 deadline, others have rescinded their past ratification, making for a constitutional muddle that has not been addressed definitively in the courts.)

The wording of the constitutional amendment: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by any State on account of sex.” Exactly how that terse phraseology might be interpreted in real-world conditions remains an open question.

In addition to Beyer, Wexton and Connolly, another Virginia Democrat – U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger – also signed on as a cosponsor.