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A local Equal Rights Amendment activist lands $36,000 service award

Anabelle Lombard poses in front of the Supreme Court (courtesy of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards)

Local activist Anabelle Lombard was awarded $36,000 for her leadership work with Generation Ratify, a youth organization aiming to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The prize comes from the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which awards the prize annually to 15 Jewish teens who have made outstanding contributions through service and leadership.

In an interview with ARLnow, Lombard said receiving the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award is “monumental and also just so encouraging.”

“Getting that recognition now and saying that, yes, young people can make change, and we have supporters from who aren’t just young people, that’s really very encouraging,” the Wakefield High School graduate said.

Lombard started Generation Ratify with a group of friends in 2019 after learning that Virginia was the last state needed to approve the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

The ERA, introduced in 1923, would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Since its founding, Lombard’s organization — which calls itself “the young people’s feminist movement” — has expanded from Arlington to all 50 states.

In January 2020, Virginia voted to ratify the amendment, thus crossing the three-quarters threshold necessary to pass an amendment.

“After Virginia did become the final state necessary to ratify, we moved towards the national struggle to finalize the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment, and enshrine gender equality for all people in the Constitution,” Lombard said.

The effort hit a snag, however.

The vote came nearly 40 years after the 1982 ratification deadline imposed by Congress. The U.S. Department of Justice held that it could not become part of the Constitution, even with Virginia’s vote.

Now, Lombard and Generation Ratify are on a mission to lobby for bills that would extend the deadline and make it possible to pass the 28th Amendment.

Doing so requires education and advocacy, she says.

“There’s not a ton of people talking about the ERA,” she said. “I think that’s the first struggle, is that most people think that we actually have the ERA or some version of it.”

To raise awareness and put political pressure on lawmakers, Generation Ratify has hosted virtual workshops to teach young activists about the amendment and shut down Constitution Avenue to demand the ERA’s addition to the Constitution.

Lombard and her peers have organized lobbying days, walkouts and filed two Amicus briefs.

Anabelle Lombard (courtesy of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards)

Lombard emphasized that Generation Ratify represents a new era of young activists from all backgrounds.

“Before we started to get involved, the ERA activism world was not diverse at all,” she said. “It’s a lot of older white women, really, and they often push queer liberation and reproductive healthcare to the side when talking about the ERA to really appeal to a wider crowd.”

The young activist contends these issues are “pivotal” to how intersectional this amendment could be. She says Generation Ratify is the only ERA-specific organization that is vocal about involving the LGBTQ+ community, and that inclusivity was on display at the ERA Centennial Convention in Seneca Falls, New York on July 21.

Generation Ratify partnered with two other ERA organizations to put on the event, which celebrated those who have fought for the ERA for 100 years and are finalizing the federal ERA and launching the grassroots fight for a New York state ballot initiative.

That members of Generation Ratify now number more than 13,000, and that the organization co-hosted a national event in the historical home of women’s rights activism, is a far cry from its humble origins.

“It’s really grown from a couple of kids in Arlington, so that’s pretty amazing,” Lombard said.

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