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Del. Ken Plum: Slow but Steady Course of Human Rights

by Del. Ken Plum August 11, 2016 at 1:10 pm 15 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was already being hotly debated in the Virginia General Assembly when I became a member of the House of Delegates in 1978.

A hearing on ratification ended with twelve of twenty members of the committee voting against ratification; they were dubbed “the dirty dozen” by the primarily women supporters of the amendment. The vote caused such a rowdy protest by advocates that the police actually carried some of the women from the room.

As a new member of the House of Delegates who ran on a platform supporting ratification of the ERA, I decided to take a new approach. I wanted to show that the ERA was in keeping with Virginia’s history. If I could show that Thomas Jefferson would support it if he were alive today, the Assembly would likely ratify it or so I reasoned. I wrote to Professor Dumas Malone, author of the six-volume definitive biography of Thomas Jefferson, and asked him if Jefferson were alive in today’s modern society is it not the case that he would support the ERA.

Professor Malone did not take the bait; he refused as a historian to speculate on the future. My plan failed, and Virginia has still not ratified the ERA, despite our repeated attempts to have it do so.

While Virginia is home to the greatest spokespersons for human rights with George Mason’s Declaration of Rights, Thomas Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom and James Madison’s Bill of Rights, the Commonwealth has been among the slowest of the states in embracing any expansion of the scope of human rights beyond their limited 18th century definition.

Although women secured the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, Virginia did not ratify the amendment until 1952. When many states were moving toward accepting marriage of gay and lesbian couples, Virginia adopted an amendment to its constitution in 2006 prohibiting same-sex marriage. The amendment has been over-ridden by federal court decisions. Social practices and acceptance move much faster than the Virginia legislature as has been the case with LGBTQ rights.

For generations, Virginians have proclaimed the rights of states. They used that argument to hang onto their slaves leading ultimately to the Civil War. States’ rights was used as an argument to discriminate against Black residents and to support Massive Resistance leading to closing schools rather than desegregating them.

Again, federal court decisions and the Civil Rights Act forced Virginia and the other southern states to recognize equal protection of the law regardless of race.

Virginia voting laws are now under review by a federal court because of a concern that they discriminate against certain classes of voters with the voter identification requirements that have been struck down in four other states.

Virginia and the required number of states may not approve ratification of the ERA, but we have already seen the first woman ever to be nominated for the presidency by a major political party — and may in my lifetime see not only the first Catholic president and the first black president but also soon to be the first woman president!

  • Mike M

    Ken Plum. Still fighting 1978’s battles. Still failing.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Yahbut he sponsored a bill commending Reston once. What a triumphant achievement!

      HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 634
      Commending Reston.
      Agreed to by the House of Delegates, January 11, 2013
      Agreed to by the Senate, January 17, 2013

      RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly hereby commend the community of Reston on the occasion of its recognition by CNN Money Magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live”;

      Yay!

  • meh

    The ability to vote is a privileged and not a right. If you commit a felony you lose that ability to vote. I know this hurts your voter base…but it is what it is

    • DogPark

      The ability to vote is a privileged and not a right. If you are born a woman you do not have the ability to vote. I know this helps your argument…but it is what it is… oh wait… yeah… things changed.

      • Mike M

        And Ken Plum had nothing to do with that change.

      • meh

        Ya, and it resulted in people like Ken Plum being elected and Clinton and Obama. Great job that did

  • Guest

    In ancient Rome, serious criminals lost their right to own property forever. In America, we’ve made some progress. As of now, 14 states do better. We have a ways to go.

    • Ming the Merciless

      In Rome, serious criminals were flogged and crucified.

      It is not self-evident that modern American penal theory is superior.

      • U no roman

        WISH THIS DUMBA$$ ming JUST OD AND BE GONE, HES a busybody
        troll whos gross, he has no social grace and a burden to all. and society as he sponges off the system, hes crazzy and has no class.

        • Ming the Merciless

          Each of your tears of illiterate, incoherent rage is like a delicious gourmet chocolate to me.

  • Bert

    Ken, why don’t you wake up and do something that people are actually interested in? Like fighting Boston Properties, which is destroying the Reston Town Center.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I guess I’m not seeing this, Mr. Plum. What rights do women not enjoy, and for which they are barred legally? Except for maybe using the Men’s locker room (which would seem to be a privilege and not a right), I can’t think of any.

    • Virginia Harlow

      Oh, Chuck. Didn’t that change just recently? I mean, if I self identify as a man, I can use the men’s locker room, right?

    • Ming the Merciless

      For him Virginia will always be in the Jim Crow era and the pre-Roe era. But then magnifying the evils of the past is the only way to justify the “progress” that progressives have achieved that might otherwise seem like disastrous insanity.

  • drb

    First thought on the ERA is why do we need it? As a Liberal member in good standing Mr. Plum has advocated for court intervention and ignoring of laws. Why has he and his kind stood in the way of women advancing in our society? Does he thing lip service counts and action of Liberal discrimination can be ignored?

    It is nice to see a Liberal give lip service to equal rights though. After decades of dumbing down education for minorities and holding them in perpetual poverty generation after generation we know it is just lip service.

    Trying to bring Chicago type voting to Virginia is a slap in the face to all that support real equal rights. Democrat and Liberals have been committing voter fraud for decades and historically we know the famous “Chicago way” of the Dailey machine. It is time for one person one vote to be brought into mainstream society. Stop the voter fraud.

    With the first ever women felon on the ballet it is indeed a historic moment. When there are so many qualified and accomplished women in this country why have the Liberals pushed for and rig the system for one who has a history of personal and professional failure? It is time Virginians reject Liberalism and vote down the would be felon trying for the White House.

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