Background on Need for Amendment
In 2016, women employed full-time, year-round were paid only 80.5 cents for every dollar men were paid. This 20-percent wage gap persists across nearly every occupation, with a 2018 year report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) finding that the gap affects “women from all backgrounds, at all ages, and of all levels of educational achievement.”
In that study, the AAUW found that 7 percent of the pay gap persisted after accounting for “college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region, and marital status” one year after graduation from college. Unfortunately, that gap then widened to nearly 12 percent a decade after college graduation.
Recognizing that the gender pay gap will not close on its own, there is a renewed effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to help address gender discrimination that underlies the issue. The ERA would establish without reservation or qualification that women have the same legal rights as men: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Passed by Congress on March 22, 1972, the ERA must be ratified by 38 states in order to be added as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On May 30, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify. Virginia still has not done so. The legislature considered but tabled the ERA in its 2018 session, but supporters plan to try again. Now that the amendment is only one state short, Virginia can put it over the top.
In addition, in order for the ERA to become a constitutional amendment, the deadline for adopting it – now passed – must be lifted. Congress extended its original deadline once, but must act again in order to recognize the ratifications of late-adopting states. Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring has recently concluded that Congress may have the power to lift the deadline.
What Can You Do?
We can advocate for both of the actions needed for the amendment to take effect: ratification of the ERA by Virginia and lifting of the deadline for ratification. You can call your Virginia state Senator and Delegate and urge them to prepare to ratify the ERA in next year’s legislative session. Second, you can call your congressional representatives and urge them to lift the deadline for ERA ratification.
We are very close. Adopt the ERA now!
Don’t know your legislator? Find out who represents you at www.virginia.gov/services/whos-my-legislator/.