By Georgia Green, Capital News Service
RICHMOND — A House of Delegates subcommittee killed four bills to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment on a 4-2 party-line vote Tuesday amid verbal conflicts between the chairwoman and members of the audience.
The decision to “pass by indefinitely” HJ 577, HJ 579, HJ 583 and SJ 284 marks the end for efforts to pass legislation ratifying the ERA — a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution preventing sex discrimination — unless it is brought up in the full House Privileges and Elections Committee Friday.
“I think that with this type of attention that it’s getting, I think there’s an expectation that it will be brought to full committee on Friday,” said Del. Mark Sickles of Fairfax, one of two Democrats on the subcommittee.
The subcommittee’s chairwoman — Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland — was vocal about her opposition to the ERA, sparking tensions with the crowd. Before the vote, Ransone asked those in support of the ERA to stand, and most people in the audience rose.
“This resolution has come after this committee year after year, meaning we are very aware of this resolution and it’s a thoroughly understood issue,” Ransone said. “I don’t need words on a piece of paper — God made us all equal.”
In her remarks, Ransone referenced Eileen Davis, co-founder of the pro-ERA group Women Matter and mother of U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, by name.
ERA supporters “have disrespected me year after year,” Ransone said. “And, Eileen, you have brought young people and young women to my office and told them that they’re not worthy. They are worthy.”
Ransone said that she is respected by the male members of the Republican Caucus and that women “deserve every opportunity in life that a man does.”
“Women deserve to be in the Constitution,” Davis said from the audience in response.
Ransone and fellow Republican Dels. Hyland “Buddy” Fowler Jr. of Hanover, Riley Ingram of Hopewell and John McGuire of Henrico voted to kill each of the resolutions to ratify the ERA. Sickles and Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg of Henrico voted to keep the resolutions alive.