The Equal Rights Amendment may have expired 39 years ago, but it hasn’t stopped multiple localities across the state from voting on resolutions in support of ERA, including Hampton and Newport News.
On Dec. 11, Hampton City Council voted 7-0 to support the ERA.
“It was the right thing to do at this particular moment and is an opportunity to show support for our legislators, who will go with the recommendation that the city they represent has given its stamp of approval to our General Assembly, encouraging Congress to ratify this particular amendment,” said Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck.
The ERA, originally created in 1921 by women suffragist Alice Paul, and years later, was reintroduced by Congress with a ratification deadline in 1979. The amendment was three states shy of ratification but in recent years, advocates nationwide have begun a movement to ratify the ERA.
At the Newport News City Council meeting on Tuesday night, the resolution to support of the ERA passed, 5-2, with two out the four women on council, Saundra Nelson Cherry and Patricia Woodbury, opposing the resolution.
Why? Cherry said the time limit has run out and her colleague, Woodbury, agreed.
Woodbury also mentioned while she did intend to vote in favor of the resolution, she ultimately decided against it because of 14th amendment covers equal protection for all in a clause and said supporting this could lead to the possibility of unintended consequences like women being eligible for the draft, not having separate sports teams or bathrooms, etc.
Newport News Vice Mayor Tina Vick, who voted in support of the resolution, said the vote may have been 7-0 if the vote was handled differently.
On Dec. 11, Councilman Dave Jenkins told fellow council members during a work session he wanted to vote on the ERA at the regular City Council meeting but agreed to wait until Jan. 8, in accordance with the council’s original agenda/procedure/timeline.
After hearing public comments from four residents in support of the amendment, Jenkins motioned for council to vote anyway.
The result? The resolution failed, 3-4, with all four women opposing because Jenkins did not follow proper procedure and they wanted more time to research the ERA before voting on it.
Vick, Cherry, Woodbury and Sharon Scott also felt Jenkins’ decision to vote is insulting and disrespectful.
However, not everyone agreed with the council members decisions to vote no and voiced their opinions on social media.
Wednesday night, a state Senate committee voted in favor of legislation. The legislation still has to be voted on by the full Senate and the House. It’s unclear if there are enough votes in the GOP-controlled General Assembly for the measure to pass.
Vick feels the #metoo movement, which mainly occurred in the workplace, may have something to do with the renewed energy to vote on the ERA and the Senate majority is men who are trying to make up for it.
“It’s showing that Virginia is moving in the right direction,” Vick said. “There is a change in the times and people are recognizing the importance of us as women as a part of the nation and the world.”