The Equal Rights Amendment is the news once again because of a statewide push to encourage the Virginia General Assembly to ratify the 47-year-old addition to the U.S. Constitution when it convenes in Richmond early next year.
Nevada and Illinois became the 36thand 37thstates to ratify the ERA since 2017. Now, Virginia seems the most likely state to become No. 38, which advocates contend is enough to make the amendment law of the land.
ERA promoters in Virginia have launched a website (VAratifyERA.com) and a statewide bus tour to spread the word. They contend that despite the gains women have made in recent decades, the U.S. Constitution still fails to guarantee protection from discrimination based on sex.
ERA opponents say the 14thAmendment, which states no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law,” is sufficient to protect women and men from discrimination based on sex.
Proponents, meanwhile, say the 14thAmendment is not enough because it ensures “strict scrutiny” based on race, religion and country of origin, but not necessarily based on gender.
Gender, they argue, enjoys only an “intermediate” level of consideration in discrimination claims.
The text of the ERA is straightforward: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any other state on account of sex.”
Its acceptance might be considered a given in a country whose very Declaration of Independence declared it self-evident “that all men are created equal.”
But how has that worked out? Given that slavery was not vanquished until after the Civil War, and women were not afforded the right to vote until 1920 -- almost 150 years after the declaration’s signing -- is proof that words don’t always mean what they seem.
When asked to support the ERA’s ratification, the Prince William Board of Supervisors balked, citing concerns about loosening restrictions on abortion and other unintended consequences. The board passed an alternative “equality resolution,” which is now the subject of its page on the VAratifyERA website under “opposition.”
Whether or not the General Assembly ratifies the ERA in 2019, the amendment will face additional hurdles before its tacked onto the U.S. Constitution. Either Congress or the courts will have to act to overcome the 10-year ratification deadline that expired in 1982.
Perhaps proponents’ most compelling argument in support of the ERA is the chance for Virginia to, as they say, “be on the right side of history.” It’s certainly something our state has failed to do in other matters of basic civil rights.
Regarding the ACA
For anyone who is without employer-provided health insurance, the window is closing to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The deadline to do so is Saturday, Dec. 15.
If that’s news to you, it might be because the signup period was shortened this year, and fewer resources were spent spreading the word.
The good news is that the website is easy to navigate. Fill in your employment information and check some boxes to estimate your income for 2019. You’ll receive your eligibility results, including a potential tax credit if you qualify. (If your income turns out to be more than your estimate, you may have to repay some or all of the tax credits at the end of the plan year.)
Once armed with the tax-credit estimate, you can review the plans available in your area and get details about copays, deductibles and monthly premiums.
Helpful hint: A “gold” plan isn’t necessarily the most comprehensive — or the most expensive. Read details carefully, keeping in mind your family’s specific needs. A family where one member might become pregnant in the next year or a family with several children will have different priorities than a male millennial in good health.
Common questions are answered on the website. Call 1-800-318-2596 to connect with experts who can answer questions clearly and simply. There is no individual mandate in effect for 2019, so those who choose to go without health insurance will not have to pay a penalty.