Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia awaits Legal Challenges

Virginia Capital Via WikiMedia

(CNN) Why the Equal Rights Amendment is a 2020 priority. When Virginia opened its 2020 legislative session this week, the Equal Rights Amendment, a century-long dream of progressives and feminists that would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality for women under the Constitution, appeared closer than ever to fruition.

State Democrats, who now control both chambers of the legislature as well as the governor's mansion, are pushing forward with their efforts to make the commonwealth the 38th -- and potentially final -- state to ratify the amendment.
But opponents, who claim the ERA will pave the way for greater abortion access and say equal-rights protections for women have already been enshrined at federal and state levels, have vowed to block the national ratification effort. And it's unclear whether actions taken by Congress and dozens of states more than 40 years ago will stand up under legal challenges from conservatives who say the window to ratify the ERA expired decades ago.
That was the view of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel made public on Wednesday, which, citing a 1979 congressional deadline, blocked the archivist of the United States from verifying the amendment should it be approved by the necessary three-fourths of state legislatures.
    Virginia Democrats, however, are pressing on. The state Senate advanced a bill on Thursday to ratify the amendment, and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, the state's first female speaker, has vowed to pass the ERA in her chamber.
    "For too long, women have not had the protections from discrimination we deserve in the U.S. Constitution, and with passage of the ERA, we'll be that much closer to living in a world where women and girls have the same opportunities as men," Virginia Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who introduced the House resolution to ratify the ERA, said in a statement to CNN Wednesday.
    Conservative opponents are ready.
    Douglas Johnson, the National Right to Life's senior policy adviser, expects that once Virginia or another state ratifies the amendment, the national archivist will be sued by liberal attorneys general in federal court, where he's confident the anti-ERA position will prevail.
    "The narrative that the ERA is on the verge of ratification," Johnson said, "is pure political theater."