Push to make Va. last state to ratify ERA hits dead end in House

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment rallied in the Capitol last week. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A campaign to make Virginia the last state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment hit another dead end in the House of Delegates on Friday, where Republicans on the body’s election’s committee blocked its consideration on a party-line vote.

The move likely means the amendment is dead for the year, though advocates say they remain hopeful House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, could still bring it to the floor or that a majority of House members could bring it up anyway through a procedural maneuver.

Cox’s office wasn’t immediately available for comment, but both paths struck Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, as unlikely.

“Any rules change or even more so a vote to discharge would be procedural, and that’s where (House Republicans) have shown gold-medal quality unity,” said Sickles, who made the motion Friday to consider the ERA despite its defeat in subcommittee earlier this week.

To that point, Sickles noted that a Republican, Del. John McGuire, R-Henrico, who had supported the ERA as a co-patron last year, was among those who voted against putting it on the agenda for consideration.

He said it would be a waste of time and energy for Democrats to continue pushing the point. “I think the public knows who’s on what side,” Sickles said.

ERA advocates, who boycotted Friday’s meeting, said Friday they’re not giving up and encouraged supporters to contact Cox’s office and ask for a floor vote.

For background on why ratifying the amendment has been such a fraught debate, see here and here.

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Ned Oliver
Ned, a Lexington native, has a decade’s worth of experience in journalism, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He also has the awards to show for it, including taking a pair of first-place honors at the Virginia Press Association awards earlier this year for investigative reporting and feature writing. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass.