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Could Virginia Be Set to Change the Constitution? Maybe

With its legislature in Democratic hands, it's expected to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2019 10:50 AM CST
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In this Feb. 2, 1982, file photo, opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment listen to speakers during a demonstration at the Capitol in Richmond, Va.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(Newser) – Could Virginia's election results end up changing the US Constitution? Maybe. Democrats flipped both houses of the state legislature in Tuesday's election, giving them control of both the legislature and the governorship for the first time in 26 years—and they say they'll use that control to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee legal gender equality for women and men under the Constitution. Only 37 states have done so since it was passed by Congress in 1972, and Virginia would tip the figure into the necessary "three-fourths" realm of 38 states. But that still might not be enough. What you need to know:

  • The timeline: The ERA, written by suffragist Alice Paul, was first proposed in 1923. It was passed in 1972, with Congress setting a ratification deadline of 1982, reports the AP. That passed deadline has those opposed to the ERA saying the amendment is no longer able to be ratified. Those for it say Congress could rectify that by voting to extend the deadline, though with Republicans in control of the Senate, that's unlikely to happen now. There's a good chance it'll end up before the Supreme Court. FYI, 35 states ratified it by 1982; Nevada ratified it in 2017. Illinois did so a year later.
  • What else opponents say: That it's unnecessary for one, because the 14th Amendment grants all US citizens "equal protection of the laws." They also point to the fact that five of the states that did ratify it subsequently rescinded that decision.

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