CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Republican-led West Virginia Senate voted Friday to rescind the state’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, declaring that it expired in 1979.
All 23 Senate Republicans were sponsors of the measure, including three women. It passed on a voice vote without debate or discussion and now goes to the House of Delegates.
In a statement later, Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin of Greenbrier County said “it’s a sad commentary that in America in 2022 equal rights are still being debated. We should be moving forward, not backward. Women deserve be treated equally under the law; that should not be controversial.”
The American Civil Liberties Union’s West Virginia chapter issued a statement that it will fight the resolution as it heads to the House.
“It is outrageous that the Senate would go back on its commitment that woman should have equal rights to men,” the ACLU said.
West Virginia ratified the amendment in April 1972, the same year that Congress sent it to the states. States were given seven years to ratify, then the deadline was extended to 1982. The amendment wasn’t approved by the required three-quarters of states before the deadline.
In January 2020, Virginia lawmakers approved the amendment, becoming the 38th and final state needed. But the Justice Department said in an opinion that month that the vote was too late. In March 2021 a federal judge agreed, dismissing a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general that had sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia’s vote.
The West Virginia Senate resolution, which was introduced Thursday, declared that the state’s approval expired in 1979. In giving a description of the measure, Jefferson County Republican Patricia Rucker said it “just clarifies that the resolution that was passed by the Legislature is no longer valid.”
When Rucker urged adoption of the measure and asked if anyone had questions, no one else spoke. The vote voice was then taken, and some in the chamber gave a no vote.
“Clarifying that WV wants to rescind their ERA ratification when there is a procedural chance it could actually become ratified is perhaps the most WVGOP thing I could dream up,” Kayla Young, a Democrat in the GOP-led House of Delegates, said on Twitter.
Baldwin questioned the purpose of the supermajority GOP’s resolution.
“What needs to be clarified? What’s really going on here?” he said. “I think West Virginians are clear. Women deserve equal and fair treatment under the law.”
In 2020 the Democratic-led U.S. House voted to remove the 1982 deadline for the amendment’s ratification. The measure has not advanced in the evenly divided U.S. Senate.
Debate has swirled over what the amendment, which guarantees men and women equal rights under the law, would do.
According to supporters, the amendment would offer stronger protections in sex discrimination cases and give Congress firmer ground to pass anti-discrimination laws and other protections. Opponents say the measure could be used to erase protections such as workplace accommodations during pregnancy.
Anti-abortion activists have warned that abortions rights supporters could use the amendment to eliminate abortion restrictions on the grounds that they discriminate against women.