Thu. Jul 9th, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Campus reacts positively to Virginia’s ratification of Equal Rights Amendment

3 min read
A green circle surrounds the words ERA yes.

Virginia becomes the 38th state to ratify the ERA. (Creative Commons)

by RILEY DOHERTY

Staff Writer

Almost 100 years after its initial proposal, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on January 15. The ERA aims to legally and symbolically combat sex discrimination across the United States. Thirty-eight states are required to ratify a proposed federal amendment.

Despite reaching the 38 required ratifications, the ERA still has some legal hurdles it needs to overcome.

“There are two legal issues that need to be resolved before the Equal Rights Amendment becomes a part of the Constitution,” said political science professor Stephen Farnsworth. “The first one is the question of timing.”

The Equal Rights Amendment passed the Senate and was proposed to the states for ratification in 1972. The ratification deadline passed in 1982.

Farnsworth explained that this problem can be remedied by Congress authorizing new extension or by the courts declaring that putting time limits on amendment proposals is unconstitutional.

The second hurdle the ERA will have to face involves the states.

“Several states passed the Equal Rights Amendment but subsequently decided to withdraw their ratification, withdraw their support for the Equal Rights Amendment. Can states do that? That is another legal question,” Farnsworth said.

The states that withdrew their ratification are Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho and Kentucky, meaning that if states are allowed to withdraw their support for an amendment, the ERA only has 34 of the 38 required ratifications.

Once these legal questions are resolved by Congress, the Courts, or both, there is not much standing in the way of the ERA becoming the 28th Amendment. “It’s added to the constitution once all the legal questions are resolved,” said Farnsworth.

Despite these upcoming legal challenges, Farnsworth notes that there’s a lot to celebrate. “Compared to a few weeks ago, the number does stand at 38 and that’s a big victory for people who have been working on the Equal Rights Amendment for decades.”

The exact wording in section 1 of the Equal Rights Amendment is as follows: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Supporters of the amendment argue that it is a logical and necessary step forward for gender equality, according to the ERA’s official website, “The first – and still the only – right that the U.S. Constitution specifically affirms equally for women and men is the right to vote.”

Many students on campus support the amendment.

“I think it’s a great amendment. It’s been a long time coming and should’ve been in the constitution for a while now,” said Khalil Vest-Sims, a junior and American studies major. “Women will probably have more benefits than they did previously, which is good.”

Junior and studio art major Andy Chen approved of the amendment. “I very much agree with it. You shouldn’t be discriminated against based on gender or race as long as you haven’t broken any laws. It’s surprising that some people don’t agree with it,” said Chen.

Shane Thin, a senior communications major, had a neutral stance to the amendment’s ratification. “I’m neutral to it. As a guy it doesn’t personally affect me, but it does help a certain group of people,” said Thin.

While most students are hopeful about the amendment’s effect, some like Parker Siebenschuh, a junior history major, are skeptical. “Would this only apply to biological sex or those who identify as another sex?” said Siebenschuh, “That could be a major issue in court cases and even go to the Supreme Court. That could be a grey area and raise questions about sexual identity within the eyes of American law. We’ll see how it holds up when a case involving the new amendment reaches the Supreme Court.”

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