Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) blocked a resolution in support of the Equal Rights Amendment from coming to a vote during county board’s Sept. 4 meeting.
The Equal Rights Amendment is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution first introduced in 1921 that seeks to outlaw discrimination based on gender.
Under the board’s rules of order, both the chairman and vice chairman have authority to block a resolution from coming to the full board. In blocking the resolution, Buona pointed to the reason that authority was created.
“We had very partisan resolutions potentially coming to the board, and when I say partisan, Democratic-Republican partisan,” Buona said. “And many of them really had nothing to do with Loudoun County. They were national issues, so the board said we need to spend our time focusing on county issues.”
“If the General Assembly wants to ratify it, good for them, I’m all for that,” Buona said. “… But that’s their issue to vote on, and I don’t want this to become the issue in the Loudoun newspapers for the next 9 to 12 months.”
But the board will likely vote on the Equal Rights Amendment anyway. County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said she will introduce a policy formally supporting it as part of the county’s legislative agenda.
“This is a Loudoun issue. Yes, the state will vote on it, but we often bring things and encourage how we want our state representatives to vote,” Randall said. “… This is not an out-of-bounds thing.”
A number of Loudouners came to the board meeting to ask supervisors to pass a resolution supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. Kathy Shupe said it was their hope supervisors would allow a vote on “a nonpartisan resolution, and approve the resolution—after all, the Equal Rights Amendment improves all our lives and assures equal protection under the law.”
“We are the right county, the right state, and it’s the right time,” Shupe said.
Randy Ihara referred to the Declaration of Independence, adopted in 1776 with the famous line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
“Since then, a theme of our history has been the reconciliation of that foundational principle and the persistence of manifest inequality,” Ihara said.
There is disagreement over how close the Equal Rights Amendment is to ratification. To amend the U.S. Constitution, three-fourths of the states must pass resolutions in support. Its supporters say Virginia would be the 38th and final state needed to do so, but others say there are as few as 31 states supporting the amendment, and that the deadline to ratify has expired.
After being originally introduced in 1921, the Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced in 1971, with a deadline for ratification in 1979. In 1977, it had been ratified by 35 states and had bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and all three presidents in office during that time—Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter—but a conservative movement led by Phyllis Schlafly derailed the amendment. Four states—Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and South Dakota—have voted to sunset or revoke their ratification, although it is unclear whether they can do so.
Congress extended the ratification deadline into 1982, but no additional states ratified during that time. Since then, Nevada and Illinois have voted to ratify.
Buona said that most of the speakers in support of the Equal Rights Amendment at the board meeting were active members of the Democratic Party. Shupe and Ihara are both members of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee.