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The ERA Helped Turn Virginia Blue. It Could Do the Same for the Presidency.

Photo: TIME Magazine

The 2019 elections had a few surprising highlights, but none of them top the formation of a Democratic Virginia State Legislature, which seems odd at first glance. Why should this make national headlines? Besides the fact that this is the first time Democrats have held the Virginia state government in decades, in large part due to the failure of Democrats to organize locally, Virginia could be the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Yes, that Equal Rights Amendment, the one that guaruntees equal rights under law, regardless of sex. Yes, the discrimination of women in terms of divorce, property, and employment is still legal according to the United States Constitution—which is unequivocally disgusting. Virginia, however, could change this by ratifying the amendment and passing the ball to the Congress.

Then arises a legal quandary that has puzzled legal experts for years; the deadline to pass the ERA, as designated by Congress in the 1970’s, has expired, but can such a deadline be set? The Constitution itself only states that the amendment must be ratified in a “reasonable amount of time”. Most point to the Madison Amendment, also known as the 27th Amendment, passed by Congress nearly 200 years after its inception. Alice Paul first proposed this amendment in 1923, a mere 100 years ago, so, if this logic holds, the ERA is still valid. Then again, other legal scholars claim Congress could just extend the deadline to ratify as far into the future as they would like, allowing the amendment to take effect, as the piece of legislation itself was passed by both the House and the Senate in the early 70’s. 

This used to be a bipartisan issue, until inflammatory campaigns claimed the amendment would enter women into the draft, eliminate alimony, and decrease the tendencies for women to receive custody of children in divorce cases. Which, in an increasingly less constrictive society based on gender, becomes less and less of an issue. Yes, there are still people like Phyllis Schlafly, masking the submission of women to the role of housewife by glorifying Americana. But the widespread opinion of Americans has greatly changed. One of the cruxes the Stop-ERA campaign was built upon was the possible elimination of single-sex bathrooms, a catcall of homophobia, as it preys upon an image of homosexuality that is innately criminal or immoral. Approval for same-sex marriage has around a 70% approval rating in 2019. Socially, as a nation, we’re a lot more progressive than we used to be.

Speaking of the present day, the most controversial in our time is impeachment. Should Democrats impeach, should they not impeach, should they both impeach and not impeach at the same time? However, outside of impeachment, there are limited measures the Democrats can accomplish without holding the White House. Except the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s the perfect storm; progressive reform that doesn’t need to pass a Republican Senate. The Equal Rights Amendment is a golden goose in terms of polling; a whopping 94%, according to a study conducted by the ERA Coalition/ Fund for Women’s Equality support the amendment. That’s polling only matched by universal background checks on those wishing to purchase firearms, another winning issue for Democrats. Virginia didn’t turn blue because they want to impeach Trump and that’s all; gun control legislation and the Equal Rights Amendment delivered the state to Democrats because a majority of Americans believe that dangerous individuals should not have weapons of war and gender discrimination should be illegal. According to that same poll, 80% of Americans already think it is illegal.

“Running on Impeachment” is a terrible idea. Any campaign focused on negating the opposition is generally unsuccessful. Running as the party who guarantee women’s rights, who uphold public safety, and who improve access to medicine is a winning combination, as shown in the 2018 and 2019 elections. Flipping Kentucky’s governorship blue and Virginia’s state government blue didn’t happen purely out of hatred of Trump (however, he does play a role in it). It happened because Americans believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, through and through. The Equal Rights Amendment advances this cause. This is a fight the Republican Party knows it can’t win, and I would be shocked to see it try to block women’s rights legislation in such a brazen manner.

I am confident in few things in national politics, but I am certain that Democrats will win in a debate concerning the rights of women because it’s about time we get this done, and the American public knows it.

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