Virignia Senate passes Equal Rights Amendment, pro-lifers seek to limit its effects
RICHMOND, Virginia, January 16, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Virginia’s push to revive the long-dormant, so-called “Equal Rights Amendment” took another step forward Tuesday, but pro-life and pro-family activists in the state are taking heart at the advancement of a competing resolution to affirm equality without the ERA’s divisive, pro-abortion legal implications.
As LifeSiteNews covered on Monday, Virginia has taken up the cause of ratifying the ERA. It’s unclear what success would mean for the decades-old proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution, as several states have since rescinded their support and many argue passage is moot so long after the original 1982 deadline, but left-wing activists argue Virginia would provide the long-awaited 38th state to ratify it.
The next day, the state Senate voted 26-14 to pass the ERA, with five Republicans joining every Democrat in the chamber. It now goes to the state House of Delegates for consideration, after which it would not require a governor’s signature (though pro-abortion Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has already expressed his support).
Ostensibly, the ERA simply states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” But conservatives argue this language is redundant in light of ample pre-existing protections for female Americans’ actual rights, and that if this revival was found to have legal force, it would be interpreted as codifying into law non-rights such as abortion.
“If the Equal Rights Amendment is added to the U.S. Constitution, the courts have to begin to give strict scrutiny to the issue of gender. And where they’ve done that at the state levels already, we’ve seen them interpret it to mean that we have to have taxpayer-funded abortion,” Family Foundation of Virginia president Victoria Cobb told LifeSiteNews.
“In order to ensure ‘equality’ for women, this language creates sameness between men and women. And in the 21st century, we don’t embrace sameness. We embrace womanhood in all of its unique and wonderful ways” as equal to men “but not the same as” men, she continued.
The Family Foundation warns that forcing government to disregard all differences between the sexes could have a broad range of ramifications, including extending the military draft to women; interfering with sex-specific prisons, sports teams, scholarships, and private facilities; endangering the tax-exempt status of churches that hold to male-only clergy; and even forcing insurance companies to ignore the health and safety differences between men and women.
“The Equal Rights Amendment is a Trojan horse for taxpayer-funded abortion, sneaking it into the Constitution, and would enshrine an unlimited right to abortion,” Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins agreed, warning that it “could affect issues such as Social Security benefits and childcare, all while ensuring that millions more babies are senselessly killed under the banner of equality.”
At the same time, however, the Family Foundation is encouraged that another measure, Sen. Amanda Chase’s S.J. 275, cleared the Senate Privileges and Elections committee 8-6 Tuesday. Unofficially dubbed the “Equal Rights Affirmation” Resolution, it emphasizes that the Fourteenth Amendment, federal laws such as Title IX, and numerous state laws already guarantee equal protection for men and women.
“Whereas, the Commonwealth of Virginia is a place that respects and values the differences of individuals and strives to ensure equality for both women and men; now, therefore, be it resolved” that the assembly reaffirms “that all persons residing in the Commonwealth are afforded equal protection under the law,” it declares.
“The Equal Rights Affirmation resolution is consistent with the message we have been telling legislators: Embrace Womanhood, Do NOT ERAse it,” Cobb said in a statement Tuesday. “We actually care about women, which is why we fully support Senator Chase’s Equal Rights Affirmation resolution, reaffirming the full equality that women have been enjoying for many years.”
The Family Foundation pledges to continue to oppose the ERA, and is currently working to educate members of the House Privileges and Elections Committee in the hopes of blocking it. Concerned citizens may contact the Virginia legislature here, here, and here.