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Richmond Times Dispatch: Three Virginia congresswomen hail House vote to remove deadline for ratifying ERA

Washington, February 14, 2020
RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH, MEL LEONOR

The three women in Virginia’s congressional delegation celebrated Thursday the passage of a resolution in the U.S. House that would do away with the long-past deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The House voted 232-183 to remove language setting the ratification deadline as 1982 — when only 35 of the needed 38 states had ratified the language.

The effort was reinvigorated in recent years. Following passage in Illinois and Nevada, Virginia last month became what proponents say is the final state needed to ratify the amendment.

“Equality should have no expiration date. As the three women of Virginia’s congressional delegation, we find ourselves positioned at a unique moment in our nation’s history,” Reps. Elaine Luria, D-2nd; Abigail Spanberger, D-7th; and Jennifer Wexton, D-10th, said in a joint statement.

They added, “By removing the deadline for ratification, Virginia’s role as the 38th state to ratify the ERA will be noted in history.”

The rest of the Virginia delegation was split along party lines on the measure, with four Democratic congressmen voting for it, and four Republican congressmen voting against it.

Questions about whether it’s too late to ratify the amendment have shrouded debate over the measure.

The U.S. Justice Department under President Donald Trump issued an opinion last month saying it’s too late, suggesting that the process would have to begin anew to be legitimate.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, then announced he was partnering with officials in Illinois and Nevada to sue the National Archives to ensure the women’s rights measure is added to the U.S. Constitution.

The National Archives, which handles the amendment process, said it is abiding by the Justice Department’s opinion. The lawsuit is pending.

Spanberger, who represents parts of Chesterfield and Henrico counties, was accompanied by two girls from her district onto the House floor during the vote on the resolution: Laura Jordan, 11, of Richmond and Eastan Weber, 12, of Powhatan.

Spanberger said in an interview that she believes Congress is within its powers to remove the deadline. She said the vote gets closer to “removing from the conversation this issue of the deadline.”

“The Equal Rights Amendment has been very important to my constituents. We’ve seen a lot of advocacy on the issue,” Spanberger said. “It’s an exciting time.”

It’s unclear whether the Senate will take up the measure. Only five Republicans in the House voted to support it, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said during a news conference earlier this month that he is “personally not a supporter.”

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