This week in wins: Equal Rights Amendment passes major hurdle


Virginia became the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment the same week New Jersey's governor signed legislation to protect health care and three states saw voting rights victories.

The Virginia legislature made history this week by becoming the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment, but that was not the only news progressives celebrated. There were voting rights victories in Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin, and New Jersey's governor signed laws protecting residents with preexisting conditions.

Read on to catch up on this week's wins.

Virginia ratifies Equal Rights Amendment

The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment on Wednesday, making Virginia the 38th state to do so.

"For the women of Virginia and the women of America, the resolution has finally passed," Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn said just before she announced the result of the House vote. Those gathered in the chamber erupted in applause.

The amendment, which would ban discrimination based on sex, has not been ratified by three-fourths of the states, the threshold necessary for amending the U.S. Constitution. However, when Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it set a deadline of 1979 for state ratification. Opponents of the ERA maintain the deadline has passed, but proponents argue the deadline itself is unconstitutional, according to the Washington Post.

New Jersey governor signs bills to protect people with preexisting conditions

On Thursday, New Jersey's Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a package of health care legislation protecting state residents should federal courts side with Republicans and overturn the Affordable Care Act.

The bills would protect people with preexisting conditions from being charged more by health insurance companies and allow adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' health care plans, according to Bloomberg Law.

"At a time when the Affordable Care Act is under siege by the Trump Administration and being challenged in the courts, New Jersey has a responsibility to protect and provide access to high-quality, affordable health care for all of our residents," Murphy said in a statement, applauding legislators for making "the health of our residents a top priority."

A group of Republican-led states, backed by the Trump administration, are challenging the ACA in federal court, seeking to overturn the landmark health care law and remove all the protections it guaranteed, including protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Texas Democrats launch massive voter registration drive ahead of 2020 election

With its eye on both a marquee Senate race and the presidential election in November, the Texas Democratic Party launched a massive voter registration effort, ABC News reported on Monday.

The effort includes deploying 1,000 field organizers and canvassers as well as mailing voter registration forms to hundreds of thousands of unregistered voters, with the goal of registering as many as 2.6 million voters. In addition, the state party will work with Fair Fight, the pro-voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, to fight against voter suppression efforts.

Texas is poised for "historic Democratic gains at the ballot box," Cliff Walker, deputy executive director of the state party, said in a statement. "Texas is the biggest battleground state in the country. We know that our democracy works better when more people vote, not less."

In the statement, Walker also noted that the party has a permanent voter protection hotline (844-TX-VOTES) to assist voters across the state who have questions or problems.

Michigan Legislature passes bill to create mental health hotline

Residents in Michigan will soon have access to a statewide mental health hotline, thanks to legislation recently passed by both chambers of the state Legislature, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

The legislation would create a telephone hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help anyone in the state experiencing a mental health emergency. Those calling the hotline, expected to cost roughly $3 million to create, operate, and maintain, would be referred to a mental health provider.

A hotline could "make people more willing to talk about" suicide or other mental health issues, Michael St. John, a program supervisor at Pathways Community Mental Health, told a Michigan NBC affiliate.

Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign the measure.

Missouri court blocks voter suppression law

On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down key provisions of a 2016 voter ID law, saying the law required "misleading" and "contradictory" statements from citizens attempting to vote without a photo ID, the Associated Press reported.

The Republican-backed voter ID law would have forced residents to affirm that they both did not have an appropriate ID, but also require those voters to present an appropriate non-photo ID in order to cast a provisional ballot.

"Although the State has an interest in combating voter fraud, requiring individuals ... to sign a contradictory, misleading affidavit is not a reasonable means to accomplish that goal," Judge Mary Russell wrote in court's opinion.

"The best part of today's Missouri Supreme Court opinion is that the opportunities to vote in Missouri are actually more expansive now than they were prior to the GOP's bungled attempt at voter suppression," Marc Elias, a prominent voting rights attorney, wrote on social media about the decision.

Wisconsin judge halts massive voter purge

An appeals court handed a victory to more than 200,000 Wisconsin residents on Tuesday, halting a conservative-led effort to purge voters from the state's rolls, the Associated Press reported.

Wisconsin's bipartisan election commission wanted to wait until after the 2020 election before altering the state's voter rolls, but a conservative group sued, demanding the state purge 209,000 names.

The appeals court overruled a lower court decision demanding the election commission begin purging voters or face fines for not doing so. Instead, the commission can wait with a lawsuit on the issue makes its way through the courts.

In the 2016 election, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by less than 23,000 votes.

Check back next week for more good news.