RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment are so confident Virginia is on the verge of becoming the critical 38th state to ratify the gender equality measure, they are already making plans for how they will celebrate.

But that jubilation could be largely symbolic. Despite broad support for the amendment in the state, the ERA's prospects nationally are substantially more complicated.

The proposed 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution faces a host of likely legal challenges and vehement opposition from conservative activists who depict the ERA as a threat to their stances on abortion and transgender rights.

The passage of time is also a factor. When the measure passed Congress in 1972, lawmakers attached a 1977 ratification deadline to it, then extended it to 1982. While the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is likely to extend the deadline again, the Republican-controlled Senate may balk, increasing the chances of litigation. Lawsuits also could be waged over an attempt by five states in the 1970s to rescind their initial support for the amendment.

At least one legal challenge is already underway. Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota filed a lawsuit in federal court in mid-December seeking to prevent the U.S. archivist from accepting a new ratification.

In Virginia, the ERA's future is bright: Democrats who seized control of the state legislature in November say there is unanimous support in both their House and Senate caucuses.

“It will pass,” Virginia House Speaker-elect Eileen Filler-Corn said pointedly at a recent news conference attended by cheering advocates, some of whom have been working on the issue for decades.

Virginia supporters have framed ERA ratification as a chance to rebut the state’s long history of racist and intolerant policies.

In the past, Virginia "fought against desegregation ... fought against interracial marriage ... fought against women’s right to vote,” said Jennifer Carroll Foy, chief patron of the House ratification resolution who is also a member of the black caucus and one of the first women admitted to the historically all-male Virginia Military Institute. “And it is only poetic justice that now we stand on the right side of history and finally give women their full constitutional equality.”

After a ratification vote, Virginia is expected to submit copies of the state's resolution to the U.S. archivist. State Attorney General Mark Herring said when that happens, he will include legal arguments in support of the ERA.

Herring, who personally supports the proposed amendment, said his office has been preparing for a long time for potential challenges to Virginia’s ratification.

“If we have to go to court, I won’t hesitate,” he said.

Emily Martin, general counsel for the National Women’s Law Center — which supports the ERA — is uncertain what lies ahead. But she hopes that a campaign for ERA ratification will kindle a new surge of women’s activism comparable to the women’s marches of 2016 and the subsequent emergence of the #MeToo movement.

“Mobilization around ensuring women’s equality is really important at this moment when the Trump administration is going backward in so many ways that are harmful to women and girls,” she said, referring to President Donald Trump.

Some of the ERA-related arguments surfacing now are similar to those that flared in the 1970s. Would ratification mean that women, as well as men, are subject to the military draft? Would it undermine workplace laws intended to protect women?

But some of the liveliest debate over the coming months will likely deal with two hot-button social issues that have evolved significantly since the ’70s: abortion access and the rights of transgender people.

While abortion has been legal nationwide since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, many Republican-controlled states have passed tough anti-abortion laws in recent years and are hopeful the high court might repeal or weaken Roe.

Anti-abortion activists worry that the ERA, if ratified, would be used by abortion-rights supporters to quash abortion restrictions on grounds they specifically discriminate against women.

“That’s the whole reason ERA has been brought back,” said Anne Schlafly Cori of the conservative advocacy group Eagle Forum. “The proponents are concerned about Roe being stripped away by the Supreme Court, so they’re trying to shoehorn the ERA into the Constitution.”

“Any vote for the ERA is a vote for abortion,” said Cori, whose mother, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, spearheaded a highly successful opposition movement to the amendment in the ’70s.

Martin affirmed that abortion access is a key issue for many ERA supporters; she said adding the amendment to the constitution would enable courts to rule that restrictions on abortion “perpetuate gender inequality.”

The issue of transgender rights was far from the spotlight in the 1970s, but is likely to be a divisive topic in the coming ERA debate. Some ERA opponents are trying to kindle alarm over the possibility that the amendment would be used to ensure nationwide protections for transgender women seeking to use women-only restrooms and locker rooms.

“The ERA would be used to impose the most radical consequences of the new ‘gender revolution,’ which allows men to declare themselves women and vice versa,” said Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, another conservative advocacy group.

Jennifer Boylan, a transgender writer who teaches at Barnard College in New York City, depicted such rhetoric as “the hysteria of right-wing scaremongers.”

“The ERA won’t take away anyone’s rights; it will simply make the country a little fairer,” she said.

Among the Virginia lawmakers who will soon vote on the ERA is Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person to be elected and seated in a state legislature.

“Equality for women is about equality for all women,” she said. “LGBTQ women are women. And we’re not going away."


Crary reported from New York.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(39) comments


"When the measure passed Congress in 1972, lawmakers attached a 1977 ratification deadline to it, then extended it to 1982".

It is now 2020 (38 years later). The ERA has expired and would require a new Amendment.


I don’t think that is so. In accordance with the traditional ratification process outlined in Article V of the Constitution, the Equal Rights Amendment has been reintroduced in every session of Congress since 1982. I would suggest reading "The Equal Rights Amendment: Why the ERA Remains Legally Viable and Properly Before the States," by Allison Held, Sheryl Herndon, and Danielle Stager.

Jeanne T

I see that amerigirl is using the word "cowboys" as a pejorative.


Don't be a tattletale.


That guy in the photo has some very long hair!


That is a she. But it won't matter as much that you want to discriminate against her if we have the ERA since there will be constitutional protection that will keep you from using government to support your desire to discriminate.


Incorrect, it's a he. The ERA won't apply to him. It would only apply to women. It wont apply to people who want to cross dress as a woman and put makeup on.


workhard, maybe you should check her drivers license. You sound so jealous!


Atheists dems love to discredit faith based persons by saying we believe in science, but when you say that science is biology and there is only biological male and biological female, they run for the hills and change it to, well I meant "gender" and "gender" apparently is not science according to dems. being woke is so confusing.

Jeanne T

"That is a she."

"That"? Seriously, Ed?


Picture reminds me of a very catchy Aerosmith song back in the day.....


That guy posting here is a bigot. I guess you think that since you are a straight white male you are better than anyone who isn't like you. You're wrong, because according to our forefathers, in this country, we are all equal. That's exactly what they are fighting for. Nice christian attitude,

Jeanne T

"I guess you think that since you are [fill in the blank] you are better than anyone who isn't like you."

Well, as someone here said, amerigirl, people who live in Alabama are not highly educated. I imagine that person might also say that about rural Virginians who seem to be "clinging" to their guns and forming "sanctuaries". Are these bigoted attitudes? Or is it acceptable when it comes from an "educated" Democrat living in Loudoun County who obviously has all the right ideas?

Jeanne T

"You're wrong, because according to our forefathers, in this country, we are all equal."

According to the Founders, we are all equal under the law.

What are "Christian attitudes", amerigirl? What do you mean by that? How do you know the person you responded to is actually a [follower of Jesus Christ] "Christian"?


Jeanne, you really have to get over this obsession you have with me. Am I really worthy of that much of your attention? All you do is make remarks about my comments, use your brain and make your own comments. Your comment on what I said makes no sense. I said that the person has a superior attitude because that person is unaccepting of people different than them. I did not mention education, because that has nothing to do with the facts. Do you think it is all under and uneducated people that cling to their guns? Your words, not mine. You are wrong that according to our forefathers, in this country, we are all equal is just about ‘under the law’. Thomas Jefferson all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Paine, “I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.” Alexander Hamilton “There can be no truer principle than this—that every individual of the community at large has an equal right to the protection of government.” I can give you more from John Adams, John Jay etc.

Jeanne, how many times have you only made comments on my wording? If I want to use the term ‘cowboy’ I really don’t care what you think of it, too bad, deal with it.


The leftist bias in how this article is written is unreal.....just report the facts and drop the attacks on opposing views and explain why this is good for all Virginians and their families....


That would really give an incomplete story. The background is that many have been fightin to get this passed for a long long time and the fight should be included.


Equal rights means that rules that divide us by gender won't be tolerated. Gender won't be an important attribute since each gender will be treated alike under the law. That will benefit everyone except those that unjustly benefit from gender discrimination.


Only one way to settle this and other perverse ideas: a war between liberals and patriots!


Unfortunately I believe you may be right. Or we can just move all of the libs to California. They already screwed up that state so it won't make a difference.


YES, violence is always a great answer. At least to many on the right. Grab your guns cowboys.


ERA isn’t just about women, its about equal treatment under the law. One would think that men would have a greater say about terminating a pregnancy (that they participated created) under the ERA. Thinking of LGBTQ dynamics, an abortion restriction law could state that any human, Male or Female, carrying a fetus, shall not terminate his or her pregnancy after 12 weeks.


Oh boy, if that's the case the libs may want to rethink this. You know that wont fly.


When men get pregnant then they should have a say about abortion. Like it's not enough that someone has to receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage them from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person for women within 100 miles of the provider and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility, and must undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion; the provider must offer the patient the option to view the image. Do you know that many people don't even know they are regnant by the 12th week. If it is that close you would be putting pressure an the woman to have the abortion immediately or risk not being able to have one. This is not something that a woman should be making a rash decision about.


Advocating for less regulation of the murder of unborn children. Isn't that sweet.


When men get pregnant? Really? You are upside down and inside out Amerigirl


workhardgetahead try reading the entire statement before making a fool of yourself. Do you understand sarcasm? Since men can't get pregnant why do they think they have the right to make choices about women's rights?

Jeanne T

"This is not something that a woman should be making a rash decision about."

Then why do you object to a 24-hour waiting period and the mother viewing her ultrasound? Why shouldn't a woman be discouraged from having an abortion?

And why shouldn't men have a say about abortion when it concerns the baby they have fathered? Should a man (father) have a choice in whether or not to support a child he doesn't want, particularly if he isn't married to the mother? Or are women the only ones allowed to make choices?


Jeanne, because some women need to travel over a hundred miles to have the procedure. Why should they have to make to trips when they have made their decision because some lawmaker thinks they should wait a day. If you had been raped and made the decision to terminate the pregnancy do you think you should be forced to look at an ultrasound? I’m not saying that anyone should be encouraged or discouraged but given information to base their decision on. There is nothing stopping a man from discussing parenthood with the mother, but he is not the one who must go through the pregnancy and there is no guarantee that he will stick around. Yes, it should be up to the mother and she should be responsible enough to make an informed decision. There have been men who have taken responsibility for a child that comes from such a pregnancy. I know of 2 right off the top of my head. I also know of someone who had to have an abortion because she had sepsis which would have killed her and the baby if she tried to go to term. I don’t think forcing her to have an ultrasound (which she was forced to do) was very mentally healthy. She didn’t look at it because she wanted that child. There are too many variables to set laws and one circumstance can completely different from the next one. BTW good conversation.

Jeanne T

"Since men can't get pregnant why do they think they have the right to make choices about women's rights?"

Maybe because they are the fathers of these children (or are they fathers, since many believe it isn't a baby)? Are you saying fathers have NO rights when it comes to the children they have helped conceive? Should a husband have a say?


People can pretend to be another gender , but DNA is a proven fact you are born a man or a woman. There is no changing your DNA. Don’t force your beliefs on us and we will not forced you to conform to our beliefs. It’s amazing how liberals get all upset over our beliefs and views,but demand us to conform to this beliefs. What a joke. Democrat lawmakers on the state and federal level don’t care about you, they just care about the votes and staying in office.

November Blue Wave

Not that simple. For instance, a baby can be born with XY chromsomes and external genitalia that appears female because testosterone was not present in the uterus during gestation. Gender has been arbitrarily determined by doctors because of gender appearance at birth. The bottom line is gender identity is determined by the brain of each individual and should be respected by all of society.


Oh man, someone wants to rewrite the laws of nature.


“a baby can be born with XY chromosomes and external genitalia that appears female” That is a rare genetic abnormality. Gender dysphoria is a DSM-5 psychological disorder and is the only DSM disorder that allow for self-mutilation without correcting the underlying behavior to cause it.


So true, those born that way didn't have a choice and are just as important as everyone else and deserve to be treated as such.

Jeanne T

Such cases are rare, and abortion was not legalized to accommodate exceptions. It was legalized to accommodate abortion "on demand", i.e., for any reason or no reason.


Please tell us how DNA has proven that you are born male or female by modern more educated standards. DNA decides which characteristics you will carry from your parents, The DNA of those with gender dysphoria was found to have nine variants that may cause the condition. Just because they have a 'y' chromosome doesn't mean that all the genes that make up that chromosome are the same. It's a bit more complicated. The gene (called SRY, and which is found on the Y chromosome) has variants. Some babies who have a Y chromosome but a mutant SRY are born female. How would you explain that?


Basic biology female has XX and male XY and genetic mutation are more common in XY. There are currently no know genetic markers to accurately identify many DSM defined disorders including gender dysphoria.

What few studies there are concerning genetics and gender dysphoria are for trans women who, not surprisingly, have low testosterone level and maybe the best course of action would be an endocrinological approach over a surgical approach.

Chris McHale

Is there anyway to confirm that they (both sides) actually read it before the vote. I think we all know it will be a party vote bit perhaps a test before the vote would be appropriate.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.