ERA PANEL

A crowd gathered Saturday afternoon at the Historic Courthouse in Woodstock to hear a panel discussion titled ERA: Past, Present, and Future.

WOODSTOCK – State and local advocates with VAratifyERA held a table panel forum Saturday afternoon to discuss the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment and the work they did in the past year to get it ratified.

One of the event organizers was local activist Holly Huddle, and the forum was moderated by Susan Platt.

“Women’s rights are civil rights,” Huddle said. “The ERA has yet to be ratified.”

But before the talk began, everyone sang.

Those who attended came from all over the state and included individuals called marathoners, people involved in advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment for more than 30 years

They joined singer Rachael Fitzsimmons as she sang two songs, one titled “Everybody Stand Up for the ERA,” and a version of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind.” Words to that song were adopted for the ERA forum.

During the forum, Kati Hornung, campaign coordinator for VAratifyERA, talked about the Virginia House of Delegates leadership.

She said the Equal Rights Amendment resolution will never be passed under the current state leaders.

Hornung said support for the amendment was high in Virginia, with independent polls showing about 81 percent of voters supporting the ERA, she said.

The activists obtained 36 resolutions of support from counties and entities for the passage of the ERA.

It passed the Senate 26 to 14 with seven Republicans supporting it, she said. The amendment resolution, however, did not even come up for a vote in the House of Delegates when Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, moved the resolution be referred to a committee, effectively killing it by preventing a vote.

Gilbert has previously told the Northern Virginia Daily that the move had nothing to do with equality but was about abortion.

Hornung said that it appeared that despite the support, “the wind went out of our sails” when legislation changing abortion laws was introduced in the General Assembly by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax.

Tran’s legislation, which failed in a House of Delegates subcommittee, would have loosened a state law dealing with late-term abortions

Scandals soon after then rocked Virginia politics when Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted they had appeared in blackface during their college years, and sexual assault allegations were made against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

Those events opened up the opportunity the House leadership needed to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment resolution, Hornung said.

Patricia Wallace, a Richmond based attorney, countered that equal rights has to do with being “similarly situated” as another group, such as do women have the same rights as men? Abortion rights, she said, are based on privacy rights, that the act is so private that the government should not be involved.

The activists said the work is not done, that there is always next year.

Huddle said VArarifyERA Shenandoah goals for 2019 will be to continue education by providing programs and movie screenings in District 15 on the history of the Equal Rights Amendment and women’s fight for civil rights, compile local stories from community members, continue to work on the state campaign and continue to work to complete a documentary being filmed by Ali Chef.

Contact Melissa Topey at mtopey@nvdaily.com