Trying again on ERA

More than half the members of the new House of Representatives have backed the reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment. Senators will have a chance to stand up and be counted when they are asked to join in on Jan. 24.

Does anybody care?

That question will be answered as the answers to some other questions become clear:

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Are the national polls favoring ERA reflected in the current crop of federal and state legislators?

Can the women's groups who failed to win ratification of ERA over the past decade demonstrate the increased political skill they claim to have learned in the process?

How much did the last election's ''gender gap'' - seen to represent more women than men opposed to President Reagan - result from his opposition to ERA?

Are the President's preferred state-by-state, law-by-law methods of eliminating sex bias seen to be achieving enough to keep the steam out of ERA?

Finally, do the problems of the economy loom so large as to shunt aside the question of equal rights for men and the feminine majority of the population?

The last question should have a resounding no for an answer, whether one prefers a constitutional amendment or a case-by-case approach to equal rights. Already there are signs of overlooking the needs of women in jobs legislation evidently designed with the male unemployed particularly in mind. Equal rights are essential for a democracy at any time. When distresses are to be shared, equal rights become if anything more important, not less

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