LORTON, Va. — A disappointing defeat in Virginia today for supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment. Democrats' last-ditch efforts to force a floor vote on the bill were defeated by Republicans.
ERA opponents clapped and supporters shouted angrily.
Democrats were hopeful after the measure passed in the state Senate last month on a bipartisan, 26-14 vote.
In a floor speech, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D) Woodbridge, told the Republican-led House of Delegates that the tactics they employed were the same kind of fear that blocked school desegregation.
Supporters said they had the votes in the House to pass the ERA bill, but GOP leadership continuously blocked it.
"This is not a happy day," said Del. Hala Ayala (D) from Lake Ridge, Va. "No matter what we do we have to work twice as hard for everything that we do in life. And this is a testament to that. Just by the obstruction and blockage of this vote."
This week an ERA protester was arrested and jailed for exposing her breast as she portrayed the Virginia state seal and flag, an image of a goddess defeating tyranny.
The arrest is reminiscent of what happened to women fighting for the right to vote 100 years ago. They were arrested for protesting in front of the White House and jailed. Some were brought to the prison in Lorton where they were brutalized, tortured and force fed.
The Workhouse Arts Center at the former prison site, has a museum detailing the suffragists fight.
"They were not treated as political prisoners as they should have been," said Pat Wirth, the executive director of Turning Point Suffragist Memorial (which is still raising money to build it). Wirth sees parallels with the arrest of the political protester with how the suffragists were arrested and imprisoned. Turning Point refers to the brutality the women faced became a major turning point in winning the right to vote.
"It was a night a terror. The warden has men that were waiting there for them. And they were dragged across the street and thrown into punishment cells. If they went on hunger strikes they were force fed. The porridge that they got was full of worms. And it was horrific, the conditions that these women were kept in."
Suffragist Alice Paul was a key figure in the passage of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. She also wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, which would bar discrimination on account of sex.
In 1972, the ERA passed both Houses of Congress and went to the states for ratification--38 states are needed--and supporters were hoping Virginia would become the 38th states.
"I am just heartbroken that women in this country still do not have equality. Our state is so rich with history dealing with democracy and rights for all. And to miss this for women, what a shame. What a shame for Virginia," said Wirth.
Groups opposing the ERA said it would make it harder to limit abortions. ERA Supporters say ERA has nothing to with abortion--they say it's only about equality for women.