Virginia became the crucial 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment Monday, a momentous victory for many women's rights advocates even though it is far from certain the measure ever will be added to the U.S. Constitution.
Virginia's House and Senate approved the resolution to ratify the amendment decades after Congress sent the ERA to the states in 1972, passing it with bipartisan support.
Supporters say hitting the 38-state mark means the ERA surpasses the three-quarters of states the amendment needs to be added to the Constitution.
But court battles are expected to unfold over a long-passed 1982 ratification deadline set by Congress as well as moves by five states that ratified it in the 1970s to rescind their support. Congressional Democrats are working to pass a bill removing the deadline.
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Ratification carries enormous symbolic weight and shows how much once solidly conservative Virginia has changed.
The proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution would outlaw discrimination based on gender, providing Congress with firmer grounding to pass anti-discrimination laws, while giving lawsuits more strength in the courts.
ERA advocates say the measure will enshrine equality for women in the Constitution, offering stronger protections in sex discrimination cases.
Opponents warn it will erode commonsense protections for women, such as workplace accommodations during pregnancies. They also worry it would be used by abortion-rights supporters to quash restrictions on the grounds that they specifically discriminate against women.