Loudoun County supervisors will not ask state legislators to support the Equal Rights Amendment, following first a vetoed resolution and then a vote this month.
Early Friday morning, county supervisors voted not to include ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in its state legislative agenda, a packet of positions and policies the county government distributes to state lawmakers and lobbyists.
“This board should be focused on things that the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors can directly affect,” said Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “A classic example tonight was Rt. 15. We directly affect what occurs there. We will make changes. The General Assembly doesn’t’ care what we think.”
Earlier this month, Buona blocked a resolution in support of the Equal Rights Amendment from coming to the Board of Supervisors for a vote. Under the board’s rules of order, either the chairman and vice chairman may veto resolutions—which do not carry any lawmaking authority—from coming to a board meeting.
The Equal Rights Amendment is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution first introduced in 1921 and since reintroduced that seeks to outlaw discrimination based on gender. Its supporters say Virginia would be the 38th and final state needed to ratify it, but others say there are as few as 31 states supporting the amendment, and that the deadline to ratify has expired.
“If I was in the General Assembly I think I’d support this amendment, so I have no problem with it,” Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) said. “So if I was state senator, or in the House of Delegates, I would have no problem supporting it.” But he, too, argued it’s not an issue for Loudoun’s legislative agenda.
“This board functions well despite our partisan differences and our disagreements because we don’t let ourselves get bogged down,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), arguing adopting a position on the Equal Rights Amendment would open the board to debating any number of issues not particular to Loudoun.
Some of the debate centered on whether remarks by late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia meant he believed women are not guaranteed equal protection under the Constitution.
“When you’re trying to interpret Justice Scalia’s remarks and you’re on the Board of Supervisors, it’s a pretty good indication you’re a little off track,” Letourneau said.
The Equal Rights Amendments’ only champion on the board, Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), said “the thing that’s the most shocking to me about this whole conversation is we’re having this conversation in 2018.”
“Mr. Meyer, you said if you could vote for this you would. Well, you can, and you chose not to,” Randall said, calling it a “money where your mouth is moment.”
Supervisors voted 5-1-1-2 not to include the Equal Rights Amendment in its agenda. Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg), and Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) voted not to include it, with Randall opposed, Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) abstained, and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) were absent.
The debate was the last item on a meeting that began Thursday and lasted nearly eight hours, adjourning just before 1 a.m.