Yesterday, Jan. 15, 2020, was yet another historic landmark in the often difficult march to fully realize the promise of the American Revolution for all our nation’s citizens. The Virginia State Senate voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), becoming at long last the 38th state legislature to put down its mark on behalf of the full equality of women in the U.S. Constitution. Falls Church’s Senate representative, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, was the first to mark the occasion with an announcement from Richmond yesterday morning. He stated,
“As a long time supporter and champion of women’s equality, I’m proud to see the Senate passage of the ERA with bipartisan support. The time has come to write women into the United States Constitution.”
The results of last November’s state legislative elections made it clear that passage of the ERA, along with a lot of other reforms we expect to come from Richmond in the coming months, was a foregone conclusion. That does not diminish the importance of the actual vote yesterday, however. Who knows for sure what enemies of women’s equality might still try to do to block the ERA from being enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, but this is surely a case where the “long arm of history,” as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. intoned, “bends toward justice.” He made it clear, in a part of that famous quote that doesn’t always get included, that such bending occurs only as good-hearted people put their shoulders to that effort.
Coming just days before this year’s annual celebration of the King holiday Monday, the Virginia State Senate ratification of the ERA, coming after 32 years of languishing for lack of that one final state vote, marks a new day and a bright future for the Commonwealth. Once the seat of the pro-slavery Confederate insurgency against the world’s first great democracy, the Commonwealth was home to many an atrocity in the name of white supremacy in the Jim Crow period following the Civil War including the arrest of a interracial couple as recently as 1968. Even to this day, the ugly scar of racism has not yet been completely wiped clean from the state’s legacy, with the deadly racist riot in Charlottesville in 2017, and threats of violence even now against lawful efforts to restrict gun excesses in the state.
But peace-loving and passionate champions for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all have nonetheless continued their tireless and relentless efforts to advance their cause, and as the rise of the ugly specter of racism and cruelty has manifested from the White House and other quarters in today’s society, they have been met with a redoubled effort to stamp them back down and eradicate them from our nation, altogether.
This is the unmistakable message of the ERA’s ratification in Richmond this week\, coming from a new legislative majority that has arisen in response to hate.