Both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly passed the Equal Rights Amendment Wednesday, fulfilling a promise that helped Democrats seize control of the legislature and marking a watershed moment in the nearly century-long effort to add protections for women to the U.S. Constitution.
The votes capped an emotional week in which Democrats — particularly female lawmakers who now hold unprecedented positions of power in Richmond — celebrated history in the making.
The House gallery was packed beyond its 102-seat capacity, with first lady Pam Northam and her daughter Aubrey Northam making a rare appearance to bear witness.
Numerous legal hurdles still have to be cleared before ERA, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, would become part of the U.S. Constitution. Critics say various deadlines for ratification have long since passed. But supporters were jubilant that Virginia, after years of failure, is poised to become the 38th state to ratify the amendment.
“For the women of Virginia and the women of America, the resolution has finally passed,” said Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), who last week became the first female House speaker in the 401-year history of Virginia’s legislature, said after the House vote. Women are also serving as president pro tempore of the Senate, House majority leader and House clerk, in each case for the first time in history.