The Bulletin

Virginia can’t undo Equal Rights Amendment approval, outgoing AG says

By: - January 7, 2022 11:58 am

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment celebrate after a Virginia Senate committee voted to send the measure for a vote before the full chamber. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Departing Attorney General Mark Herring says Virginia can’t undo its 2020 ratification of the federal Equal Rights Amendment, the stalled gender-equality measure that inspired a major activist push at the statehouse.

It’s unclear how eager Republicans might be to reverse the Virginia General Assembly’s vote, because the amendment still hasn’t been recognized at the federal level.

Women’s rights advocates had argued Virginia’s vote would be the final step needed to give the amendment approval from 38 states, but federal authorities concluded a 1979 deadline to ratify the measure was legally binding. That rendered Virginia’s action moot, at least for now.

Herring recently filed a new court brief seeking to overturn that outcome, but Republican victories in last year’s elections has created uncertainty over Virginia’s pro-ERA stance.

With a week left in office, Herring sought to provide clarity in an offiical opinion issued this week at the request of Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton. He concluded states have no authority to rescind ratification of a constutional amendment.

“This conclusion is supported by Virginia law, which speaks only to ratifications, and does not confer any method by which to rescind them,” Herring wrote.

Republican Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares voted against ERA ratification in 2020 as a member of the House of Delegates.

Supporters of the ERA argued it was a long-overdue step to enshrine women’s equality in the U.S. Constitution. Opponents, including anti-abortion groups, argued it was unnecessary and could have unintended consequences.

Some Virginia Republicans voted with Democrats to ratify the ERA, while acknowledging the action might be purely symbolic.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville. Contact him at [email protected]