Republican Supervisors Again Block Local ERA Support

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors this week for a second time voted down a statement of support for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal protection for women.

A bid to include a position encouraging the General Assembly to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment was defeated during the board’s Sept. 21 meeting, with the majority—four Republicans and one Democrat—holding that the local government should not take a position on the national issue.

Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling), who was absent for the previous vote, on Tuesday asked supervisors to reconsider their previous vote. He disputed the notion that Loudoun shouldn’t weigh in on the amendment, and that the General Assembly wouldn’t listen to Loudoun’s position.

“Why are you doing a legislative packet if the General Assembly doesn’t listen to us to begin with?” Saines asked. “… I think it’s still something we need to stand up for and support.”

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.

Republicans on the Board of Supervisors have cast the Equal Rights Amendment has a partisan issue, pointing to a number of active members of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee who have spoken up in support of it during recent weeks.

Meyer accused Saines of bringing the issue up to put the other supervisor who was absent for the last vote, Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), on the record in opposition to the amendment to use against her in the 2019 election.

“The issue is, do we think that all issues in the General Assembly and all issues in the U.S. Congress are germane for us to weigh in on,” Meyer said.

Volpe and the five other Republican supervisors voted first to stop debate on the topic, then against reconsidering the possibility of putting the Equal Rights Amendment in Loudoun’s state legislative package.

In this week’s vote, Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) changed sides to vote in support of the ERA endorsement, resulting in a straight, party-line 6-3 result.

In 1977, the amendment 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.

Since then, a deadline to ratify established by Congress and then extended to 1982 has expired. After that time, Nevada and Illinois voted to ratify. 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.

To amend the U.S. Constitution, 38 states must ratify an amendment.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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