On May 30, 2018, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment. We now only need one more state to ratify the ERA for it to be adopted into the U.S. Constitution. Meet the woman who is leading the charge to ensure her state of Virginia ushers in this landmark change, making women’s equality law nationwide.
By Kati Hornung – When my older daughter was about ten, she asked me WHY the women’s movement had not yet achieved the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. As she saw it, nearly one hundred years was plenty of time, so why wasn’t it done?
I didn’t have a wise or insightful answer so I said, “That is a great question. What do you think?” Her answer took my breath away: riots. Women have not yet rioted.
My entire peaceful journey as her mother flashed before my eyes. I wondered whether I would, in making a split-second decision with our civil rights on the line, join my daughter in a riot or stay on the sidelines so I could bail her out of jail? This is not the sort of thing I ever thought I would ponder as a mother.
After some discussion we settled on a more likely reason the women’s movement had not yet achieved the Equal Rights Amendment: allies. The women’s movement does not need riots, it needs more allies.
If Virginia’s Republican leadership mistakenly believes civil rights are a partisan issue, then the best thing our campaign can do is to ensure they hear from plenty of voters who identify as Republicans.
For too long the Equal Rights Amendment ratification effort in Virginia has been largely championed by women, and more specifically, by liberal, white women.
If, as my daughter and I believe, allies are the key to a ratification victory then a primary function of our 2019 VAratifyERA campaign must be to encourage and elevate the voices of important allies: Republicans, men, and women of color.
When the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified in 1972 the Republican party led the charge. Unfortunately, here in Virginia during the 2018 session it was also Republican leadership that kept the Equal Rights Amendment from a vote, which would have passed easily.
If Virginia’s Republican leadership mistakenly believes civil rights are a partisan issue, then the best thing our campaign can do is to ensure they hear from plenty of voters who identify as Republicans. There is widespread support for the Equal Rights Amendment among Republicans, around 90% nationally according to a 2015 poll. When I speak with Republican neighbors, friends, and colleagues they are dismayed to hear Virginia’s party leadership has not yet embraced gender equality in the Constitution.
So we will encourage them to raise their voices in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. In addition to elevating Republican voices to Republican leadership we will also go out of our way to include and celebrate supportive men. Men have always been important to the women’s movement. We envision a men’s campaign focused on education, outreach, and cultivation of male allies.
Most importantly, the allies needed by our VAratifyERA campaign are women of color. For too long, white women have ignored the racism of the suffrage movement. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment will be a hollow victory unless women of color are involved and celebrated.
Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment will be a hollow victory unless women of color are involved and celebrated.
As heirs of the suffragists, we cannot afford to ignore their troubling exclusion of women of color. We celebrate Alice Paul for her courageous work for women’s right to vote and for authoring the Equal Rights Amendment, but we cannot ignore her mishandling of the 1913 march by not allowing women of color to participate.
Despite her Quaker upbringing she designed the 1913 march as a whites-only parade. Although she was forced to include women of color in the final days of her preparations, only 43 women of color joined a march of an estimated 8,000.
The telling of historical truths and recognition of injustices must be a part of our country’s path forward. Let that begin with our campaign and in paying tribute to the 22 founding members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority for showing up to take their place in history, whether or not they were invited.
Similarly, women of Virginia are showing up and taking their rightful place in our legislative branch, whether or not they were invited. During the past session Virginia’s legislative branch finally hit the 25% mark for women legislators. The House of Delegates went from around 10% to 25% with just one election. It is just a matter of time before the handful of white, male, Republican leaders… are women.
Given the surge in political interest among women, it is possible a group of primarily liberal, white women could facilitate Virginia’s ratification alone. However, by including everyone in the negotiation of Virginia’s values, we move the state forward in a way that could be very healing, particularly in these polarized, partisan times.
We should ratify the Equal Rights Amendment together as one Virginia: bipartisan, with male allies, and by celebrating women of color. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it the right way. Together.
The VAratifyERA campaign launches today, August 26th, Women’s Equality Day. In eight venues around the state, supportive legislators are hosting celebrations of women and equality. For more information, please visit VAratifyERA.org.
About The Author
Kati Hornung is a 4th generation (at least!) Republican leading the nonpartisan VAratifyERA campaign to ensure Virginia is the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. By day, Kati is a software consultant, wife to an amazing husband, and homeschool mama to her two daughters who inspire her daily.
Lead photo: Kati Hornung with her daughters at the General Assembly from a lobby day; Photo credit: Rachel Iga