Respect Equality

Virginia finalizes its passage of the Equal Rights Amendment


Story at a glance

  • The Commonwealth of Virginia became the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
  • The ERA would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality for women under the Constitution.
  • Big legal questions remain, however, as the Justice Department concluded in a memo the deadline for ratification has passed.

Virginia has officially become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) after its General Assembly took the final procedural steps Monday to sign off on the measure, with women presiding over both chambers. 

The move comes 12 days after the state Senate and House of Delegates made history by backing the women’s rights measure. The amendment’s passage in Virginia crosses the threshold necessary for it to be included in the U.S. Constitution, though legal experts are divided on if the ERA can still move forward. 

The ERA would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality for women under the Constitution. 

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) praised the action, tweeting “Today marks a new ERA for the women of this country and this Commonwealth — finally, equality for women under the United States Constitution.” 

The vote comes decades after Congress sent the ERA to the states in 1972, passing it with bipartisan support. 

But there are big legal questions as to whether the amendment will be enshrined into the Constitution. 

Earlier this month, the Justice Department issued a legal memo concluding that because the 1982 deadline for ratification has expired, it is too late for states to ratify the ERA. The department said the only option for supporters now is to kick off the ratification process all over again in Congress. 

The National Archives, which certifies the ratification of constitutional amendments, said it would abide by that opinion, unless otherwise directed by a final court order. 

CNN reports there are efforts in Congress to restart the ratification process and get rid of the deadline. The House will vote on Feb. 10 on whether to rescind the deadline.