A troubled decade for the ERA

It was 10 years ago today (March 22, 1972) that Congress passed the equal rights amendment (ERA) and sent it to the states for ratification.

Swift approval of the amendment seemed likely. In the first nine months after its passage, 22 state legislatures endorsed the ERA's guarantee that ''equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.''

But momentum waned after that first year. In 1978, with time running out, advocates convinced Congress to extend the original March 1979 deadline to June 30, 1982. Today, three more states still are needed before the deadline. Chances of passage look slim.

Three states have rescinded their approval of the ERA. Last December, US District Court Judge Marion Callister ruled in Idaho that such recisions were legal. He also ruled that the deadline extension by Congress was illegal. The judge's decision has been stayed by the US Supreme Court, which will consider the case this year, but possibly not until fall. ERA proponents, however, are keeping up efforts to get the Court to consider the case as soon as possible.

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