Opinion: The time is now to pass the ERA in Virginia

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Guest editorial by Shelly Simonds

This week the Newport News City Council became the 30th city in Virginia to support passage of the ERA by our Virginia General Assembly.  I’m proud of my city for joining this grassroots effort to show bipartisan support across our state.  The conservative Republicans who have ignored this issue for too long are hearing loud and clear that we want a vote on the floor of the House on the ERA now.  Let’s have a vote, let’s see where our elected legislators stand.  

It’s about time.

This photo is of me holding a photo of my grandmother Emma Louise Beury, affectionately known as Grandma Lou, at the City Council meeting Tuesday night.  I brought her photo with me as a reminder of how long women have been fighting for equal rights in the United States.  My grandmother was a suffragette and believed in equal rights.  I feel the connection between her struggle then and ours today.  It seems incredible that we haven’t yet finished what women like her started in the 1920s.

One of the most amazing moments of my recount and tied election last year was when some friends from Virginia NOW approached me with some stunning news.  They said that if I won the recount, the ERA could pass in the Virginia General Assembly.  The reason is because it would finally get out of committee in the House.  In recent years the ERA has been held up in Republican-dominated committees where Republicans have been careful to kill bills they don’t want their more vulnerable members to have to face on in a full floor vote.  Afterall, no one in a purple district wants to vote against equal rights for women.  A recent poll by Christopher Newport University showed that the vast majority of people in Virginia, over 80%, support the ERA.  

So when we lost the drawing of lots last year we also lost the ability to pass the ERA in 2018.  This year, we are all hoping it can get out of committee so we can see where our state elected officials stand on this important issue.  In the meantime, I’m working hard to win election in 2019, so that the dreams of my Grandma Lou can become reality one hundred years later.

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