Caucus celebrates women members, shames GOP opposition to gender equality
Richmond – In honor of International Women’s Day, the House Democratic Caucus celebrates the historic representation of women in the Virginia House of Delegates, including the election of 11 new women members in 2017, all of whom ousted male incumbents.
“It couldn’t be more fitting that the 2019 International Women’s Day theme is #BalanceforBetter, because House Democrats are committed to achieving gender balance within our caucus. We are so proud of our women members, from Delegate Vivian Watts, the longest serving woman in the House of Delegates, to our 11 women in the class of 2017,” said Caucus Chair Charniele Herring. “Moreover, half of the women in our caucus are women of color, including the first Latina and Asian American women to be elected to the House of Delegates.”
Caucus Chair Charniele Herring is the first woman to chair a caucus in the House of Delegates throughout its 400-year history. Leader Eileen Filler-Corn is the first woman to be elected leader of a caucus in the General Assembly.
“Representation matters, and our dedication to Virginia women is clear in the legislation we introduce,” said Leader Eileen Filler-Corn. “For years, House Democrats have put forth bills to fight for women’s economic empowerment and workplace protections, access to reproductive healthcare, and sexual harassment and domestic violence prevention. The Republican majority has largely blocked our efforts, but we won’t stop fighting for women’s rights.”
This year, House Democrats introduced a slate of bills to empower and protect women, including legislation to:
- Exclude sexual assault from non-disclosure agreements (HB 1820 – Karrie Delaney) – PASSED
- Require consent to be included in Family Life Education (HB 2205 – Eileen Filler-Corn) – PASSED
- Create a tracking system for physical evidence recovery kits (HB 2080 – Vivian Watts) – PASSED
- Require paid family and medical leave (HB 2120 – Jennifer Carroll Foy; HB 2261 – Elizabeth Guzman)
- Include the right to reproductive choice in the Virginia Human Rights Act (HB 2369 – Charniele Herring)
- Prevent an employee from being fired for her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions including lactation (HB 1859– Delores McQuinn)
- Make it a felony for a person under a permanent protective order to subject another person to an act of violence, force, or threat to possess a firearm (HB 2504 – Kathleen Murphy)
- Increase the statute of limitations for sexual offenses against a minor (HB 2525 – Kathy Tran)
- Define birth control as FDA-approved contraceptives and provide that birth control shall not be considered abortion (HB 2082– Vivian Watts)
House Democrats also continued to fight for the Equal Rights Amendment despite repeated blocks by House Republicans. Republicans did not even allow the full House of Delegates the opportunity to vote to enshrine gender equality in the U.S. Constitution. Every single House Democrat signed on to be a co-patron of the resolution to ratify the ERA, which 81 percent of Virginians support. Only one Republican voted to allow the ERA to a floor vote.
House Republicans also sought to take credit for the tax relief bill that ultimately passed both chambers – a bipartisan, bicameral compromise that was more similar to Delegate Vivian Watt’s bill HB 2086 than Delegate Tim Hugo’s original HB 2529. The Republican press release did not even mention Delegate Watts or her instrumental leadership to direct tax relief to the Virginians most negatively impacted by the Trump tax plan. They instead gave sole credit to their male leadership.
“We have to ask, ‘Why are House Republicans so afraid of women?’” said House Democratic Caucus Communications Director Kathryn Gilley. “The House Republican Caucus continues to block women’s rights legislation, and as long as Speaker Cox holds the gavel, the ERA will never pass the Virginia General Assembly. House Democrats intend to #BalanceforBetter – by flipping Republican-held seats this November.”
The House Democratic Caucus is almost 45% women, including 11 women of color. The House Republican Caucus is less than 10% women. Since January 1, 2019, the House Democratic Caucus has retweeted, tagged, or mentioned women members in a positive manner 121 times on Twitter. In the same time period, House Republicans acknowledged women delegates in a positive manner 8 times.
“It’s clear which Caucus and which Party have Virginia women’s best interests in mind,” Gilley continued.