In a politically symbolic gesture, the James City County Board of Supervisors amended its request to state legislators to approve the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In a 3 to 2 vote, supervisors voted to amend their legislative agenda — the document that tells state legislators what the county citizens want to see changed in state law. Supervisors John McGlennon, Ruth Larson and Jim Icenhour voted to approve the measure, while Michael Hipple and Sue Sadler dissented.
“Some would say, well it’s just a symbolic gesture,” McGlennon said Tuesday. “I agree that it is a symbolic gesture, but (it’s) not just a symbolic gesture.” Ratification of the amendment would show Virginia as a linchpin state.
It remains unclear whether any adoption of the measure by the General Assembly would result in an official change in the Constitution. Congress established a seven-year time limit for passage of the amendment, allowing states to ratify it until 1979, according to the Daily Press.
The amendment would forbid the federal government and states from crafting any law that would deny equal rights to any person on the basis of sex.
For Mary Schilling, president of the League of Women Voters of the Williamsburg Area, the issue is not strictly an issue of Democrat or Republican, man or woman. She cited a Christopher Newport University poll that showed the ERA has an 81 percent approval rating by voters.
“The support for ratification is truly bipartisan, now is the time and it’s the right thing to do,” Schilling said. “My hope is the activism of women and their allies across Virginia and the country … will lead to the final ratification by the General Assembly of Virginia.
Schilling and four others spoke for the measure, but support was split among speakers in the public comment period.
For James City resident Jay Everson, the issue is a “moot point.”
“There’s been a lot of talk here of adding the ERA to your legislative agenda,” Everson said. “This is an issue here that has nothing to do with what’s going on in James City County. It’s already in our Constitution in the Commonwealth of Virginia … this is a moot point as Virginia goes.”
While there was dissension among the speakers, the board was also split.
“We agree to disagree on somethings here,” Sadler said of the board. “If I did not feel that I had equal rights I would never have been able to run for office and win. If I did not feel that I had the right to do that, I probably never would have taken on the task to begin with.
“I feel like the only winners in this are, God bless you, lawyers.”
For Larson, the issue was cut and dry.
“I have a son and two daughters,” Larson said while indicating support for the measure. “For me, it’s to ensure quality pay and career opportunities for all of them.”
The final say went to Icenhour immediately before the vote, he urged residents far and wide to contact their state legislators to promote the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Equal Rights Amendment has already been discussed in the 2019 legislative session in the General Assembly.
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.