Richmond (February 21, 2019) – Last month, the Virginia Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) with bipartisan support. Though 81 percent of Virginians support ERA ratification, House Republicans defeated the resolution in the House of Delegates’ subcommittee system and have continually blocked it from a vote on the full House floor.
Throughout this session, House Democrats have fought to give the ERA a vote by the full House of Delegates, but the Republican majority has continually relied on anti-democratic procedural tactics to deny this measure the vote it deserves. After the party-line defeat of the ERA in a Privileges and Elections subcommittee, Delegate Mark Sickles (D – Alexandria) made a motion to bring the resolution before the full committee. His motion to revive the ERA was again rejected by Republicans on the committee.
On Wednesday, Delegate David Toscano (D – Charlottesville) attached the ERA as a floor amendment to SJ275, a resolution by Republican Senator Amanda Chase affirming that all people are equal under the Virginia Constitution. House Republicans swiftly re-referred the resolution to committee, effectively killing it, over the objections of their Democratic colleagues.
Following that vote, Delegate Toscano said on the floor, “What we’ve really seen today is raw political power in its unbelievable majesty. The rules are set up by the majority, but they’re also supposed to protect the minority. And here we’ve seen the rules be manipulated to destroy the ability of the minority even to present a case.”
On Thursday, House Democrats attempted to alter the House rules to allow a floor vote on the ERA. Delegate Hala Ayala (D – Prince William) introduced a rules change that would have allowed a simple majority to vote to bring the ERA to the floor. House Democrats made clear that a vote against that rules change would effectively amount to a vote against the ERA. The rules change failed on a 50-50 vote, with all Democrats and only one Republican voting to bring the ERA to the floor. Though they were co-patrons of the Senate resolution to ratify the ERA, Republican Delegates Roxann Robinson and Chris Stolle both voted against bringing it to the floor.
In a statement following the latest Republican rejection of the ERA, Delegate Ayala said, “How long must we wait for women and girls to be included in the Constitution? As elected officials we have a moral obligation to listen to our constituents and let their voices be heard. I am sorry that did not happen today. However, I remain hopeful and have never been one to shy away from a challenge.”