Vivian Watts has a photo taken 44 years ago of her demonstrating with her daughter for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She's wearing a sash in the photo, and on Wednesday, the Virginia legislator wore that sash to work. "Forty-four years is a long time to wait," Watts said when the wait ended. The ERA passed both houses of the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports. "For the women of Virginia and the women of America, the resolution has finally passed," Eileen Filler-Corn, the first female House speaker in the legislature's 400-year history, announced. The cheers that followed were heard across the state Capitol, where the Senate was debating its ERA resolution. The chambers next each send their resolutions to the other for passage, a formality.
Bigger obstacles are ahead, and it's not certain that the ERA will become part of the Constitution. Congress first sent the ERA to the states in 1972, and the deadline for passage has past. Five states of the 37 that previously passed it have rescinded their approval, per the AP. But none of that dampened the celebration Wednesday; "there’s no time limit on equal rights," one lawmaker said. Among the spectators in the packed Senate gallery, wearing the purple of ERA supporters, was Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson and former first lady of Virginia. Her sash had ERA pins she’d collected through the decades. "I wore this when I marched — I think it was 1980 or '79 — down Pennsylvania Avenue," Robb said. Eleanor Smeal, former president of the National Organization for Women, called it tragic that a generation did not have the ERA's protections. One advocate said the victory is "for all the women who didn't live to see this day, and all the women who barely lived to see this day." (Virginia could be the state that lifts the ERA to the three-fourths threshold.)