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No More Lip Service

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By Delegate Hala Ayala

As an Afro-Latina woman and the single mom of two children, I have personally witnessed and experienced the ways that marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by legislation, first as a constituent, and now as a Delegate. We live in a first-class country but so many women are being treated like second-class citizens. We should all ask ourselves — how long must we wait for women and girls to be included in the Constitution?

This past year, the Virginia State Legislature had the opportunity to be the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution. The ERA is a provision that would guarantee women equal protection under the law. Despite our best efforts, we were not able to ratify the ERA this term because of Republican obstruction. I know this because I tried to force a floor vote on the Amendment and Republicans blocked it — refusing to give legislators in the General Assembly even the opportunity to vote on the ERA.

As elected officials we have a moral obligation to listen to our constituents and let their voices be heard. When 80% of the state supports the ERA, Republicans must take a hard look at their obstruction and ask themselves whose views they were elected to represent. Who are you afraid of? If you believe and stand with women, you will vote for women. Bare minimum, you will allow a vote on an issue so fundamental to our society. Now is not the moment to shy away from correcting the historical exclusion of women and girls from our Constitution.

No more lip service, no more empty promises, no more ‘I respect you by shaking your hand.’ Respect will be shown when we gain equality in the Constitution. There may be a target put on my back by Republicans given my fight for the ERA, but I won’t let that stop me. I will proudly help carry the Equal Rights Amendment to the floor next Session and finish the job that should have been done 229 years ago.