by L.V. Hissem
On Jan. 15, the Senate of Virginia passed a resolution to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
The ERA is a piece of legislation that simply states:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
This piece of legislation has been in circulation has been through circulation since 1923 when it was first introduced by the National Women’s Political Party.
The U.S. Senate passed The Equal Rights Amendment on March 22, 1972, and sent to the states for ratification. The ERA only needed ¾ of the states to vote for its ratification for it to become law, but missed the vote by three states.
In this time, many states didn’t even have the Married Women’s Property Act (MWPA). This meant that women in these states weren’t allowed to own property, establish credit or sue in their own name. Essentially, a woman who resided in the states without the MWPA wasn’t allowed to own anything independent from their husband without going through him, his creditors and his family.
In the 1970s, only 27% of of people polled opposed the ERA according to Gallup Polls. With this being the case, why did it fail? When posed with this question most historians look no further than Phyllis Schlafly.
Schlafly was an Illinois lawyer and housewife who opposed the ERA due to her conservative ideals. This made her a powerful spokesperson for the conservatives in the government.
Schlafly founded the “Stop ERA” group of which she was the leader. Schlafly had a habit of capitalising on various fears that the conservatives had about the ratification of the ERA and, more specifically, the “rights of the wife.” A statement from Schlafly capitalizes on this by saying, “Let’s not permit this tiny minority to degrade the role that most women prefer.”
In 1977, 35 states ended up ratifying the ERA just three states shy of the ¾ state marker needed to put the ERA into law. Since this time, two states have effectively voted on the ratification of the ERA (Nevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018).
While the Senate of Virginia has cast their passing vote, the Amendment must go through the House of Delegates and pass there for Virginia to go down in history as the pivotal 38th state needed to sign the ERA into law.
The Virginia House of Delegates will make their vote on Tuesday one week after the Virginia Senate has cast their vote.