A Virginia House of Delegates committee now controlled by Democrats on Tuesday advanced ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, a measure previously killed by Republicans on the same panel.
The House Privileges and Elections Committee endorsed House Joint Resolution 1 from Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, which calls for making Virginia the 38th state to ratify the ERA to the U.S. Constitution.
The 13-9 vote was along party lines, with Democrats backing the women’s rights measure that was a key issue in the 2019 elections when every seat in the legislature was up for grabs.
The proposed federal amendment says: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
“We are on the precipice of history,” said Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, the first woman to serve as House speaker. “Today’s vote in the House Privileges and Elections Committee brings us one step closer to giving women their long overdue place in the founding document of our nation.”
In a statement, Filler-Corn said the House would take “swift quick action” on the House floor.
Previous efforts to get the ERA to the full House failed.
The Senate approved ratification last year but the measure died in the House. A House subcommittee killed the resolution and an effort to revive it in the full Privileges and Elections Committee was also killed.
Supporters say that if Virginia lawmakers approve ratification this year, it would mean the ERA would be added to the U.S. Constitution. Opponents, however, suggest the deadline for ratification came and went in 1982 and say the ERA could have unintended consequences to women.
Last week, the federal Justice Department said in a legal opinion that’s likely to be challenged that it’s too late for additional states to ratify the ERA.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in response to the opinion that it can still be ratified.
“When Virginia becomes the 38th state to ratify the ERA I am going 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, as it should be,” he said.
The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Wednesday.