Delegate John McGuire came to Louisa recently to meet with constituents. I went to thank him both for taking time to come to Louisa and his work on the bipartisan Equal Rights Amendment last year. Not only did he support the ERA, but he cosponsored it.
I wondered why he has not signed on for the 2019 session, and was dismayed when Mr. McGuire claimed he had been “tricked” into cosponsoring. When asked what his hesitation might be, he said that it was already in the Constitution. This is not true, as there would be no reason to seek an amendment.
Many believe gender equality was passed in the 1970s, but it wasn’t. The ERA was first proposed in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1972. Thirty-eight states are required to pass it to be added to the Constitution. By 1982, 35 states had passed it. In March 2017, Nevada became the 36th and in May 2018, Illinois became the 37th.
Virginia could make history by becoming the 38th and last state. The upcoming legislative session marks the 400th anniversary of the House of Burgesses’ first session in Jamestown. What an opportune time for Virginia to continue to make history.
The Commonwealth has a poor record of validating women’s rights. While the 19th amendment was passed in 1920 and gave women the right to vote, the Virginia General Assembly stubbornly withheld its ratification until 1952. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 allowed women to open a bank account in their own name, get a credit card and apply for a loan. That was not that long ago. Now is a great time for our Commonwealth to support more than half of its population. More than 50 percent of Virginians are females, while 49.2 percent are males.
There is currently a patchwork of state and federal laws across the United States which could be simplified by passing the ERA. The late U.S. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia said, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.”
We should respect the opinion of this conservative jurist and constitutional scholar, and end discrimination against women in our country. Additionally the American Bar Association, which represents over 400,000 attorneys, has urged the Virginia General Assembly to pass this legislation. They too would like to see discrimination ended in all 50 states.
The ERA simply reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This seems straightforward enough.
It is time to end the legal disparities between men and women. Let’s make history. The time is now. If you believe in equality, contact Mr. McGuire and let him know that you want him to flip back to support the ERA. For Louisa, for the 56th district, for our Commonwealth and for our country, urge Mr. McGuire to recognize women as full citizens deserving of equal rights under all laws.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the January 10th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
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