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A century after women earned the right to vote, will Virginia legislators pass Equal Rights Amendment?

With a new Democratic majority in the General Assembly, Virginia could become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Generation Z, people of color and the LGBTQ community are leading a new generation in the decades-long fight to add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Capital News Service

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By Christopher Brown

University of Virginia student Emilia Couture had no idea what the Equal Rights Amendment was before her sister told her about the amendment a few years back.

Now as the outreach director of Generation Ratify, a youth-led movement created to ratify the ERA, Couture and many others are leading a new generation in the decades-long fight to add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s time to change the face of the movement by including the next generation—the youth,” Generation Ratify said on its website.

The ERA seeks to guarantee equal rights in the U.S. Constitution regardless of sex. The amendment was introduced in Congress in 1923, roughly three years after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. It took Congress nearly five decades to pass the amendment, which still needed to be approved by 38 states. Two deadlines passed without the required approval. By the 1980s, 35 states had ratified the amendment, but it wasn’t until recent years that the movement gained more momentum. Nevada and Illinois ratified the ERA in 2017 and 2018, respectively. With a new Democratic majority in the General Assembly, Virginia could become the 38th state to ratify the ERA.

Despite being born nearly two decades after the ERA’s last ratification deadline in 1982, Couture believes young people are aware of intersectionality and want to implement inclusivity in the ERA.

According to Generation Ratify, gender equality is an intersectionality issue, which means that when social categorizations like race and gender combine, members of more than one minority group experience other disadvantages than just gender inequality.

“I think for a long time, the ERA movement has largely been a white women’s movement and it’s really problematic that it has been,” Couture said.

The amendment has diverse support in the state legislature, including men. According to a 2016 poll conducted by the ERA Coalition, the ERA is supported by a majority of men and women. Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, sponsored ERA legislation in 2019 and Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, introduced bills in the past two years to ratify the amendment.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said African American women and women of color were overlooked in the building of the ERA and women’s rights, but now these women are leading the push for the ERA.

Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, an openly lesbian, African American woman, led the fight in Nevada to ratify the ERA. Spearman served as the chief sponsor of the 2017 resolution to ratify the ERA in the Nevada Legislature, approved that year.

“It is a symbol of the fact that we are becoming a more perfected union and we understand that equality matters,” Spearman said.

Virginia legislators have made multiple attempts to ratify the ERA. This year, Senate Joint Resolution 284 to ratify the ERA passed the Senate, but never made it out of a House subcommittee. Four Republicans voted against the resolution in a subcommittee, while two Democrats voted for it. During the vote, Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland, said she voted against the resolution because she doesn’t need words on a piece of paper representing women’s equality because “God made us all equal.”

Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, one of two Latinas elected to the General Assembly in 2017, said in a recent interview with Capital News Service that she doesn’t understand why some members of the Republican party would “argue the moral obligation that we have to not only look towards our constituents, who overwhelmingly supported this, but also women, who wanted their voices to be heard.”

Democrats then filed motions for rule changes that would have the amendment heard on the House floor and give delegates a chance to vote on it, but the motions failed.

Several members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus are leading the push to ratify the ERA in the upcoming General Assembly session. Ayala is chief co-patron on House Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D- Prince William. McClellan, and Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, are chief patrons of Senate Joint Resolution 1, which seeks to ratify the amendment in the Senate.

Carroll Foy said that she believes that the ERA has a far-reaching impact on women of color than other marginalized groups due to inequality in pay.

“As an African American woman, I am paid approximately 60 cents to a man’s dollar,” Carroll Foy said.

While the ERA does not explicitly talk about equal pay for women, Carroll Foy said she believes that adding the amendment to the Constitution would be the anchor when it comes to passing equal pay legislation.

However, not all women advocate for the amendment’s passage. Anne Schlafly Cori, chairman of the Eagle Forum, an advocacy organization for conservative values, said the ERA would harm women.

“ERA does not put women in the Constitution, ERA puts sex in the Constitution,” Schlafly Cori said. “Sex has a lot of other meanings besides men and women.”

Schlafly Cori’s mother, Phyllis Schlafly, founded the Eagle Forum. During the 1970s, Schlafly was a strong opponent of the ERA. For the new generation, Schlafly Cori said she believes that the ERA, if ratified, would give constitutional rights to “a group of people who didn’t exist in the 1970s,” transgendered people.

The amendment bans sex-based discrimination, however, it does not specify what sex is. According to the National Institutes of Health, sex refers to the biological differences between females and males, while gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of gender. Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, a co-patron of HJ1, said people think LGBTQ people are “subverting social norms” when it comes to gender and sex.

“Discrimination in regards to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are all inherently discrimination on accounts of sex,” said Roem.

Roem said that discrimination against LGBTQ people justifies ratifying the ERA.

Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, believes the ERA will be ratified in 2020. However, Cole said that ratifying the amendment will lead to a series of “costly and divisive lawsuits.” Since the ERA’s last ratification deadline passed in 1982, the amendment is considered expired, according to Cole. He also notes that five states rescinded their ratifications.

“Regardless of who wins these lawsuits, a large portion of the country will consider the Constitution to be tainted,” Cole said in a statement on his website posted in January. “Either with an amendment that is not valid or because an amendment that should be included was not.”

During the 2019 General Assembly session, Cole  proposed HJ 692, which would have Congress  re-submit the amendment with  “language that addresses the concerns that caused the old ERA to fail,” but it died in committee. ERA Advocates, however, said they believe that the original amendment can still be ratified. Supporters have cited U.S. Supreme Court cases like Coleman v. Miller, where the Supreme Court decided that it’s up to Congress to decide an amendment’s ratification period.

Generation Ratify wants to remove the ERA’s ratification deadline. In November, the organization wrote to members of Congress to support  resolutions, which would remove the amendment’s deadline from the ratification process.

“People of all genders deserve constitutional equality,” said Rosie Couture, Generation Ratify’s executive director. “It is that simple. Period.”

It’s unclear what Congress will do if the ERA is ratified by 38 states or what impact the amendment will have if it makes it into the Constitution, but many state Democrats are determined to approve the amendment. McClellan and other Virginia Democrats said they feel confident that the ERA will pass in the upcoming General Assembly session.

“To do it in the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, I think it is very appropriate,” McClellan said. “While it’s long overdue, I think getting it done in 2020 is a little bit of poetic justice.”

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Crime

Richmond Police, Mayor Stoney apologize after tear gas deployed before curfew on protesters

Protesters took to the streets of Richmond again Monday night and were met with a forceful response and the deployment of tear gas by Richmond Police – an action for which the department and Mayor Stoney later apologized.

RVAHub Staff

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Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Richmond again Monday afternoon and evening to speak out after the death of George Floyd. The group organized near both the Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart Monuments on Monument Avenue and remained mainly peaceful until police approached demonstrators at the Lee statue and deployed tear gas, as can be seen below from the below Twitter video from VPM.

Around the same time, reports began coming in that protesters at the Stuart monument were attempting to bring it down. A young demonstrator scaled the base of the statue and took what appeared to be a hack saw to the leg of the monument’s horse in an effort to bring it down. Police responded by calling on protesters to stand down, citing the weight of the monuments and their potential to crush bystanders.

Richmond Police and Mayor Levar Stoney later apologized for the deployment of tear gas on peaceful protesters – well below the 8:00 PM curfew – saying it was uncalled for and inviting protesters to City Hall at noon Tuesday to “apologize in person.” For its part, RPD said the officers involved had been “removed from the field” and would be subject to disciplinary action.

The protesters then continued marching down Franklin Street, then W. Broad Street, where things fizzled out around 10:30 PM near 14th Street.

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Downtown

PHOTOS: Protests continue for third day around Richmond, tear gas deployed as marchers ignore 8PM curfew

Hundreds of protesters rallied at sites around town Sunday as the third day of protests in response to the death of George Floyd took place in Richmond.

RVAHub Staff

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Hundreds of protesters rallied at sites around town Sunday as the third day of protests in response to the death of George Floyd took place in Richmond. Protesters gathered at peaceful rallies on Brown’s Island and at the 17th Street Farmers Market downtown on Sunday morning.

Later in the day, another group formed at the Lee and Jackson monuments on Monument Avenue in the Fan. As dusk approached, the group made their way east on Franklin Street, turning onto W. Grace Street and then Broad Street near City Hall and Children’s Hospital at VCU.

An 8:00 PM curfew put in place by Mayor Levar Stoney did not deter most protesters, who continued marching and chanting until Richmond Police deployed tear gas and pepper spray into the crowd. Slowly, over the course of an hour, protesters dispersed.

Many businesses along W. Broad Street from Arthur Ashe Boulevard to the Arts District, already left cleaning up broken glass and graffiti Sunday morning from Saturday night’s protests, were left on edge, though there were far fewer reports of property damage Sunday.  Many of the businesses affected were small or minority-owned. By Sunday, many showed their support for the protests, spray painting “Black Lives Matter” or “Small/Minority-Owned” on their window coverings to both show solidarity and deter further damage.

Photographer Dave Parrish caught much of the Fan/Downtown protest Sunday afternoon and files these photos.

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Downtown

Must-See RVA! — John Marshall Courts Building

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.

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May 2020
  • 800 East Marshall Street
  • Built, 1978
  • Renovated, 1994
  • Architects, C. F. Murphy & Associates; Helmut Jahn, project architect (1978). Hening-Vest-Covey (1994)

Straight out of Alphaville.

[ADR] — building in 1981 downtown survey

[ADR] — building in 1981 downtown survey

Designed by a nationally known Chicago-based architectural firm, the John Marshall Courts Building was intended to provide a neutral background to the John Marshall House. In this it succeeds. it is a slickly detailed glass box with rounded edges. The building is the best example of the “glass box” genre in Richmond.

(Montage) — Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, undated

(Montage) — Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, undated

C. F. Murphy & Associates are among the more skillful followers of Mies van der Rohe, who was the most influential architect of the 20th century. Their Richmond building has been controversial on both functional and aesthetic grounds. [ADR]

Designed to respect the Marshall House next door, the sleek, black glass box of the John Marshall Courts Building sets off the house, emphasizing its iconic, welcoming facade. This is perhaps its only success, because the court building has been plagued with criticism for its dysfunction. Recent alterations have attempted to correct traffic and security issues. (SAH Archipedia)

May 2020

May 2020

When your lead architect likes to wear capes as normal outerwear, and his detractors call him “Flash Gordon”, there’s a chance you might not get what you were expecting. Before you know it, you might be throwing around emotional terms like controversial and dysfunction and find yourself spending money to correct gaps in the original design.

(The Architect’s Newspaper) — McCormick Place, 1969-1971

(The Architect’s Newspaper) — McCormick Place, 1969-1971

After graduating from the Technische Hochschule in Munich in 1965, (Helmut) Jahn moved to Chicago to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a school long associated with the Modernist aesthetic of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his followers. On the basis of this solid design background, Jahn was hired by Chicago architectural firm C.F. Murphy Associates to work on the Miesian design for McCormick Place in Chicago.

(YouTube) — screencap from Helmut Jahn, FAIA Lifetime Achievement Award

(YouTube) — screencap from Helmut Jahn, FAIA Lifetime Achievement Award

In the late 1970s and ’80s Jahn made his mark, designing extravagant buildings that combined historical and contextual references—the central tenets of postmodern architecture—with high-tech engineering solutions. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

May 2020

May 2020

Jahn certainly has his admirers and adherents. He has completed over 90 building projects during his long career and has been widely recognized for his efforts, earning a Ten Most Influential Living American Architects award from the American Institute of Architects in 1991.

(Newspapers.com) — Helmut Jahn’s MetroWest building in Naperville, Illinois —Chicago Tribune Sunday, March 2, 1986

(Newspapers.com) — Helmut Jahn’s MetroWest building in Naperville, Illinois —Chicago Tribune Sunday, March 2, 1986

However, in the early days, his critics considered him “that postmodern enfant terrible who rocketed to stardom on the supercharged fireworks of the State of Illinois Building in 1985.” (Architecture Week)

A 1986 Chicago Tribune article about his MetroWest design in Naperville, Illinois called him a “flamboyant postmodernist, who adorns himself in capes and Porches.” It went on to observe that the building produced nausea in a nearby office worker, and concluded with relief that “at least nobody has dubbed it the Starship Naperville.” [CHIT]

May 2020

May 2020

With context like that, perhaps it’s not surprising that issues were found with the courts building. Not everyone digs the glass box thing, that’s easy to grok, but the functional issues are something else. The building opened in 1978 and just four short years Robert Winthrop was calling it controversial, so whatever problems existed must have quickly found a voice.

May 2020

May 2020

The precise nature of the complaints is obscure, but the building does not appear to respect the available space. Together with the John Marshall House, the courts building complex consumes the entire block, yet there is a large, empty plaza along Ninth Street.

May 2020

May 2020

It certainly looks nice, but by 1994 the City would find itself coughing up $2 million dollars for a renovation to create additional office space and another courtroom. [RTD1] At such cost, there probably weren’t a lot of plaza enthusiasts still hanging around.

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — John Marshall High School

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — John Marshall High School

Adding to the sense of injury, the new courts building came at the price of the beautiful old John Marshall High School. It too sat quietly behind the John Marshall House at the corner of 9th and Marshall and was considered a state-of-the-art facility when it opened in 1909, with large classrooms, elevators, and science labs, as well as modern plumbing, heating, and ventilation. [RTD2]

Alas, this sacrificial lamb was razed, and the school had to scoot to a new location in North Side.

(John Marshall Courts Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Note

  • A shout-out to Ray Bonis & Harry Kollatz for their tips and input on the courts building!

Print Sources

  • [ADR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert P. Winthrop. 1982.
  • [CHIT] Chicago Tribune. Sunday, March 2, 1986.
  • [RTD1] Richmond Times-Dispatch. December 8, 1994.
  • [RTD2] Richmond Times-Dispatch. August 16, 1909.

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