I scream, you scream, we all scream … for equality?
That’s the message I Scream for Equality, an equal rights campaign, is spreading across Virginia. Rolling in a purple, sky blue, and indigo ice cream truck decked out with pro-ERA facts, slogans, and graphics, volunteers lure passerby into conversations with their coolers full of popsicles, drumsticks, and other frozen goodies.
The campaign has identified Virginia as ground zero of the nearly half-century-old pursuit to ratify the U.S. Equal Rights Amendment. To that end, the ice cream truck and a rotating group of local and national volunteers began touring the Commonwealth in early September. From now until the Nov. 5, 2019 elections, they’re making at least one stop a day, handing out ice cream at colleges and events and educating voters about the ERA.
Virginia would have become the 38th state to sign the gender-equality measure last year, enough to meet the constitutional threshold for approval, but after passing the state Senate the bill fell just short of coming to a full floor vote in the state House.
The only thing holding it back, said volunteer Nicole Subryan of Mataoca, is flipping the state legislature blue.
All 140 members of the General Assembly are on the ballot this year. Democrats need to flip just two seats in each chamber to win control of the legislature for the first time in decades.
Subryan wants voters to know that women don’t have equality under the constitution, which does not say that people are equal regardless of their sex. As the late Justice Antonin Scalia explained in a 2011 interview, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it — it doesn’t.”
ERA proponents say that enacting the amendment would help close the gender wage gap and enforce equality in health insurance, pensions, and social security. They say it will also help ensure equality in justice for victims of rape and domestic violence and help eradicat gender discrimination in the workplace.
“It’s amazing to me that I have more rights as an African American than I do as a woman,” Subryan said. “Unfortunately I can’t separate my gender from my race so I would like to be recognized by my country for both things.”
“The only thing [women] have guaranteed in the constitution is the right to vote,” volunteer Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield of Richmond explained.
Broaddus-Crutchfield has been fighting for equal rights since she found out women were not treated equally under the constitution, which
“This is an injustice that needs to be corrected and the only way to get it corrected is to vote in leaders who treat it as
Opponents of the ERA, mostly Republicans, fear the ERA would make abortions more accessible. Proponents say that’s a falsehood, rather, the ERA would simply ensure that medically-necessary abortions (when the women’s life is in danger) are covered under government health insurance programs.
Eighty-one percent of Virginians support ratifying the ERA, according to a Dec. 2018 survey by the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University