Women preside over House, Senate as Virginia lawmakers finalize ERA ratification

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)

The Virginia General Assembly finalized its ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment on Monday when the House and Senate each approved the other chamber’s version of the resolution.

Women presided over both votes, with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) stepping off the dais of the Senate where he typically leads floor sessions and yielding the gavel to Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, the chamber’s president pro tempore and the first woman and African American to hold that role.

In the House, the vote was called by Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, who herself is the first to hold the title in Virginia.

“Finally, women have a place in our nation’s founding document,” Filler-Corn said in a statement.

The House and Senate advanced the amendments on Jan. 15 shortly after the General Assembly gaveled in for its two-month legislative session. The closely-watched vote drew nation-wide attention because Virginia is the 38th and final state advocates needed to tip the amendment over the nationwide ratification threshold.

But lawmakers in at least one chamber had to also pass the other chamber’s resolution to complete the ratification process. Monday’s procedural vote means the House and Senate clerks can deliver it to the U.S. Archivist.

A legal battle over what happens next is already underway, with opponents filing lawsuits to stop it from being added to the U.S. Constitution because of a lapsed 1982 deadline. Congress, meanwhile, is debating legislation to extend the deadline.