Equal Rights Fight

December 15, 1978

Report Outline
Current Outlook for Ratification
Long Struggle for ERA Passage
Future of the Ratification Drive
Special Focus

Current Outlook for Ratification

Evidence of Dwindling Support in States

The struggle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is beginning to resemble the ordeal of Tantalus — the mythical Greek king who was condemned to perpetual hunger and thirst, with food and water lying just beyond reach. So far, 35 state legislatures have ratified the proposed amendment to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Only three more must do so before it becomes part of the Constitution. But it is entirely possible that the ERA will die inches short of its goal. Organized resistance remains strong in all 15 of the remaining states — some of which have defeated the amendment over and over — and no consensus exists on which three states, if any, might raise the total to the required 38.

Congress in October approved a resolution extending the deadline for ratification from March 22, 1979, to June 30, 1982. Passage of the resolution capped a year-long lobbying effort by backers of the amendment and marked the first time Congress had extended the ratification period for a constitutional amendment since it began setting time limits in 1917. Women's rights advocates hope the extension will give momentum to the stalled equal rights drive.

The last state to ratify the ERA was Indiana, which did so in January 1977. Since then the amendment has suffered a string of defeats. In the last two years resolutions to approve the amendment were defeated in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. In the other eight unratified states, ERA resolutions did not come up for a vote in 1977 or 1978. Furthermore, legislatures in three states — Tennessee, Nebraska and Idaho — voted to rescind earlier ratifications, although there is a legal question as to whether the rescissions will be permitted to stand.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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