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Did you know it is still legal to discriminate against someone based on their gender identity and sexual orientation in Virginia? Some might think that this is completely ridiculous, but it is true. Without the Equal Rights Amendment being ratified in our state, gender and sex are not protected from discrimination. 

Many are probably wondering what the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) is. Alice Paul, a suffragist who fought for equality after the 19th Amendment passed, created this proposition in 1923. The Equal Rights Amendment is a revision for our Constitution that was proposed to the United States Congress in order to guarantee legal rights for all citizens regardless of sex. Moreover, it would end legal distinctions between men and women. Although this may not seem important, the lack of the ERA is detrimental to our society because our legal system is set as women and men being in two separate spheres. The two separate spheres model enforces gender roles from the past.

With this model, even though there is legislation preventing it, it is legal to pay women differently for doing the same job as men and pregnant women can be denied jobs. It also prevents the rollback advancements made towards women’s rights, such as Roe v Wade and The Lilly Ledbetter Act. Moreover, it stops your employer from being able to decide your access to birth control. While this issue might seem like it is only a women’s issue; it is an intersectional issue as well.

This amendment will also protect those who identify under the transgender spectrum (i.e., those transitioning, those that have transitioned and those who identify as non-binary.) Although, the amendment says “discrimination on the basis of sex,” rather than gender-many people have perceived that statement to include both sex and gender together.

If this seems like something you would like to be put into our Constitution, I have good news for you. Virginia is the last state that needs to ratify this amendment for it be put in our Constitution. Virginia is one of the closest states to achieving this milestone; the only thing preventing this from happening is The Virginia House of Delegates.

Hopefully this year, the House of Delegates can be flipped in order to pass this bill. We can do this by registering to vote and voting in this year’s election, being that a lot of the House is up for grabs. However, if you are unable to vote, you can still send letters to your delegate in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment. In addition, you can also volunteer with multiple activists groups through canvassing, informing others on this issue and more. Two groups that you can volunteer with are VA Ratify ERA and VA Equal Rights

VA Ratify ERA is currently doing an iScream4Equality tour where they will be giving out free ice cream. They were at VCU on Wednesday, September 25 and will be attending the Richmond Folk Festival, which will October 12-13.


Image credit: Rosemary Ketchum 

Kaitlyn Austin is a senior majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Civil Rights.
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