A picture caption in Friday's Post switched the identification of Virginia Sens. J. Marshall Coleman (R-Staunton), who voted for the Equal Rights Amendment, and A. Joe Canada (R-Virginia Beach), who voted against the amendment.
The Virginia Senate failed by a single vote today to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
The defeat came when Sen. A. Joe Canada (R-Virginia Beach), a candidate for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, refused at the last minute to vote for the amendment unless the effective date of ratification were delayed until after a state-wide advisory referendum on ERA can be held.
Canada offered an amendment delaying ratification until after a referendum this November, but Lt. Gov. John N. Dalton, the presiding officer of the Senate, ruled his amendment out of order.
Dalton, considered certain to be the Republican nominee for governor this year, said the U.S. Supreme Court has held that ratification of U.S. constitutional amendments by state legislatures cannot be passed subject to condition.
The defeat was a bitter blow to ERA supporters, who appeared all week to have the required "constitutional majority" of 21 votes in the 40-member Senate on the side of ratification.
Canada had been counted as a sure vote for the amendment by both its supporters and opponents. When he cast a no ballot, ratification failed even though a majority of the 38 senators present favored it, 20 to 18. The two absent senators are ERA opponents.
All eight Northern Virginia senators voted for ratification. Of the 32 Democrats present, 18 voted yes and 14 voted no. Of the six Republicans, two voted for ratification and four against.
The Equal Rights Amendment was proposed by the U.S. Congress in 1972 with all 12 of Virginia's representatives and senators voting for it. It would add a provision to the U.S. Constitution banning discrimination on the basis of sex. To make it law, 38 state legislature must ratify the amendment before the seven-year deadline for ratification expires March 22, 1979. So far, 35 have approved the amendment.
Until today, neither full house of the Virginia General Assembly had put ERA to a debate and a vote on its merits. Since its introduction in 1973, the amendment has been held off the floor of the House of Delegates by the Privileges and Elections Committee. The amendment made it to the floor of the Senate in 1975 when that body's P&E Committee voted it out in a meeting not attended by several opponents. The full senate, however, returned it to committee that year without a debate on its merits.
ERA supporters were jubilant on Monday when the Senate voted, 21 to 17, with Canada on the winning side, to discharge its P&E Committee from further consideration of the amendment. This set up a vote by the full Senate and supporters expected to have the minimum 21 votes, but no more than that.
Regardless of the outcome in the Senate today, most legislators expected ratification would again fail in the House of Delegates this year. An effort to force the issue out of the House P&E Committee was defeated by a wide margin last week. ERA supporters, however, were hoping that Senate approval would put pressure on the House for a floor vote.
The debate over the amendment was dramatic even though no one expected the well-worn arguments for and against ERA to change any votes.
The small gallery of the Senate chamber was packed with women on both sides of the issue. Dozens of supporters and opponents of ratification stood in hallway outside the filled gallery and chamber. So many reporters showed up to cover the debate that an exception was made to the rules to allow some of them to sit against the wall behind the back row of senators.
Some House members also sat in the back of the chamber throughout the debate, including such ardent ERA backers as Dels. Mary A. Marshall (D-Arlington) and Dorothy S. McDiarmid (D-Fairfax).
Northern Virginias dominated the debate in a favor of ratification. Sen. Clive L. DuVal 11 (D-Fairfax) was chief patron of the ratification resolution and spoke for it. Sens. Joseph V. Gartland (D-Fairfax), Omer L. Hirst (D-Fairfax), Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun), Edward M. Holland (D-Arlington) and Wiley F. Mitchel Jr. (R-Alexandria) all made speeches supporting the resolution.
The main debate came on an effort by Sen. Frederick T. Gray (D-Chesterfield) to substitute for the ratification resolution another resolution asking Congress to redraft the proposed amendment. Gray's subsititute asked for an amendment that would permit the exemption of women from the military draft, permit Congress and the states to pass laws taking physical differences between males and females into account and laws that preserve privacy with respect to sexual differences.
These changes would meet most of the objections of ERA opponents, including their expressed fear that ratification of ERA could make separate toilet facilities for males and females illegal.
ERA supporters argued that all these objection had been considered by Congress and found to be groundless. The Gray substitute was defeated, 21 to 17.