ERA begins its journey to near certain ratification in Virginia

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment stand outside of the entrance to the Capitol on the opening day of the 2020 legislative session. (Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A Senate panel voted Wednesday to advance the Equal Rights Amendment to the chamber’s floor, sending the long-stalled constitutional amendment down a pathway to near certain ratification in Virginia.

“We have waited too long,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, one of the measure’s patrons.

Advocates launched a push for Virginia to become the 38th and final state to ratify the amendment last year. The measure cleared the Republican controlled Senate with bi-partisan support but stalled in the House, where GOP leaders blocked a floor vote despite a majority of lawmakers in the chamber signaling their support.

This year, Democrats control both chambers and the party has unequivocally promised that the measure will pass.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, said the earliest the full Senate will likely vote on the measure is Wednesday, at which point it will be immediately transmitted to the House for consideration.

When both chambers vote on the ratification measure, the clerk of either the Senate or the House will transmit it to the Archivist of the United State.

A lengthy legal battle over what happens after that has already begun. President Trump’s Department of Justice has advised the archivist that ratification is not valid because a 1982 deadline imposed by Congress has passed.

Supporters of the amendment view the deadline as invalid and have promised to fight it, including Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

“When Virginia becomes the 38th state to ratify the ERA, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that the will of Virginians is carried out and the ERA is added to our Constitution, as it should be,” Herring said in a statement.