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Fauquier lawmakers are key to the ERA – and at odds over its ratification

Sen. Jill Vogel backed the amendment, but Del. Mark Cole refuses to consider it

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State Del. Mark Cole, R-88th

State Del. Mark Cole, R-88th

Dashing the hopes of Equal Rights Amendment supporters across the state, Del. Mark Cole says he’ll introduce “only legislation that reports out of subcommittee” during the committee hearing he’ll chair in Richmond Friday morning.

Translation: Because bills on the ERA died earlier this week in a subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ Privileges and Elections Committee, which Cole chairs, he won’t bring the matter up for discussion Friday as many ERA advocates had hoped.

But those supporters say they’re not giving up their effort to make Virginia the 38th state to ratify the amendment just yet. Anticipating Cole's lack of support, they're now pinning their hopes on an effort to have the ERA bill that passed the state Senate introduced to the House floor.

“We’re telling our people, don’t consider it over until we say it’s over,” said Kati Hornung, campaign manager of VA Ratify ERA, a key group organizing in support of ratifying the amendment in Virginia.

State lawmakers in both Prince William and Fauquier counties have played critical roles in the effort to ratify ERA in the state General Assembly this year – or to stop it in its tracks.

Central to the back-and-forth have been Cole, R-88th, and state Sen. Jill Vogel, R-27th, both of whom represent Fauquier County.

Vogel is a supporter of the amendment whose vote in a state Senate committee was critical to move the measure to the full Senate, where it was approved Jan. 15 in a 26-to-14 vote. 

The Senate bill was sent to the House of Delegates’ committee chaired by Cole. He maintains the ERA is not properly before the state General Assembly because the deadline Congress set for states to ratify the amendment expired in 1982. 

“For the General Assembly to be able to officially ratify the amendment, Congress would need to submit a new amendment to the states,” Cole said in an email Wednesday.

In an earlier Facebook post, Cole explained his opposition. “I hope that ERA proponents will spend their time lobbying Congress instead of trying to get the General Assembly to pass a resolution that would have no effect, or worse, spark a series of costly and divisive lawsuits,” he wrote. 

Cole said he is sponsoring House Joint Resolution 692, which calls on Congress to submit a new ERA to the states with language that addresses the concerns that some say caused the old ERA to fail. 

Meanwhile, Democratic state lawmakers representing Prince William County have maintained strong support for Virginia to ratify the ERA.

“We call on Republican leadership to bring the ERA to the floor of the House of Delegates for a full vote,” said Del. Hala Ayala, D-51, after Tuesday’s unsuccessful subcommittee vote. 

Ayala noted the results of a poll released in December by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University that showed 81 percent respondents back the ERA. 

State Sen. Scott A. Surovell, D-36th, who also represents part of Prince William County, vowed In a Facebook message: “The fight is not over.”

On Thursday, Surovell said the matter is up to the Republican leadership and whether they want to “give women across the state a reason not to vote for them in November.”

Cole and other Republican lawmakers opposed to the ERA argue the Virginia Constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Reach James Ivancic at jivancic@fauquier.com.

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(1) comment

CP

It is August 18, 1920, all over again. It will probably come down to one state legislator who puts the entire nation over the top. Who will join Senator Vogel as one of the heroes of this moment? As the song from "Hamilton" says, "history has its eyes on you."

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