High court steers middle course on ERA

The proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is holding on, but only by a thin legal thread this week following a careful compromise worked out in the US Supreme Court.

In its orders announced Jan. 25, the high court steered a middle course between opponents and supporters of the constitutional amendment. The justices agreed to stay, at least temporarily, an Idaho federal district court decision that would have been a death blow to the ERA.

Idaho Judge Marion Callister ruled in December that Congress acted without authority when it extended the ratification deadline for the ERA and, further, that five states including Idaho could withdraw their approval.

The high court's action lifts the lower courts ruling until the justices can hear full arguments in the case. However, the justices refused to grant a speeded-up hearing requested by the National Organization for Women (NOW).

The soonest the court could schedule arguments in the case would be April, and the hearing could be delayed until next fall, long after the June 30 deadline has passed.

As a result of the Supreme Court action, NOW and other ERA supporters can continue their drive to win over three more states needed to put into the Constitution a guarantee of equal treatment under law of the sexes. They face a titanic challenge since no state has joined the list of 35 that have ratified since 1975. Even if they win three more states, they would still have to fend off the Idaho suit in the Supreme Court.

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