With Virginia poised to pass ERA, Trump administration, Republican AGs move to block it

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment stand outside of the entrance to the Capitol on the opening day of the 2020 legislative session.
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)

With Virginia expected to be the pivotal 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a group of Republican attorneys general are seeking to block the amendment.

“These same Republican attorneys general are trying to gut health care for millions of Americans, roll back environmental protections, and reverse years of progress in reproductive freedom,” the Democratic Attorneys General Association said in a statement. “At least now they are making abundantly clear what we’ve known all along—they do not believe in equality for women. This preemptive lawsuit is a blatant effort to thwart our democracy and block women from gaining Constitutional equality, which is already long overdue.”

President Donald Trump’s Justice Department also issued a memo arguing the legal deadline to ratify the amendment has expired, CNN reported. That drew condemnation from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

“It is wholly unsurprising that the Trump Administration has found yet another way to oppose women’s equality,” Herring said in a statement. “The ERA should have been passed by Virginia and other states a long time ago. It should have been unanimous. Women in America deserve to have equality guaranteed in the Constitution. The fact that Republican attorneys general are suing to block the ERA, and that they now have the support of the Trump Administration, is absolutely repugnant.”

Herring pledged 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” after Virginia ratifies the amendment.

The other states that haven’t ratified the ERA are: Arizona, Utah, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

A congressional deadline was imposed when Congress passed the ERA. Lawmakers initially set a March 1979 ratification deadline for states, which was later extended to June 1982. But the amendment still hadn’t gotten the backing of 38 states when that deadline expired.

There are efforts in both the U.S. House and Senate to extend the deadline. Opponents contend the amendment isn’t needed, is a stalking horse for expanding abortion and could harm women.