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Arkansas rejects attempt to revive Equal Rights Amendment

WASHINGTON (BP)–An Arkansas legislative committee dealt a blow Feb. 7 to efforts to resurrect the seemingly dead Equal Rights Amendment.

The State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee of the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 10-10 on the controversial measure, preventing it from moving forward for a floor vote. ERA proponents had hoped a successful vote by the panel would be the first step in gaining ratification by three more states in their strategy to amend the United States Constitution.

Rep. Lindsley Smith, a Democrat and the resolution’s sponsor, said she would seek again to bring the measure up for a vote later in the session, according to The Washington Times.

ERA opponents, who see the measure as a vehicle for funding abortion and legalizing “same-sex marriage,” rejoiced over the result.

“I am delighted that this subterfuge, this abortion Trojan Horse, has been unmasked in Arkansas, and I applaud all those in Arkansas who contacted their state representatives and state senators and let them know how adamantly opposed they were to this attempt to revive the moribund Equal Rights Amendment in their state,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said.

“The effort to revive the supposedly dead and buried federal Equal Rights Amendment shows the lengths to which pro-abortion supporters will go to try to subvert the will of the American people,” Land added.

The Arkansas House resolution appeared headed to an easy victory in that chamber until organizations such as the National Right to Life Committee, Arkansas Right to Life and Eagle Forum began explaining to legislators the reasons for their opposition. As a result, 20 of the 66 co-sponsors of the measure removed their support.

“Many ERA supporters were not candid with the legislators, and that came back to bite them,” NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said in a written statement. “Some lawmakers changed their minds once they learned how [state] ERAs have been used to require tax funding of abortion in New Mexico and Connecticut.”

Since ERA-type laws prohibit discrimination based on “sex,” organizations such as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the ACLU have argued in courts abortion should be treated the same as other “medical procedures,” according to the NRLC. Abortion-rights advocates have urged the striking down of restrictions on government funds for abortion, as well as parental involvement laws, the NRLC reported.

ERA versions also have been utilized in courts to argue for the legalization of “homosexual marriage” in states such as Hawaii, Maryland and New Mexico, the Family Research Council said.

The failure in Arkansas dealt a significant setback to what has become known as the “three-state strategy” by ERA advocates.

They contend the ERA does not need to go through the process all over again 25 years after it failed, basing their argument partly on the ratification of the 27th Amendment, which limits congressional pay raises. That amendment, proposed in 1789, was passed by the final state needed in 1992, nearly 203 years later.

ERA supporters argue their amendment needs only three more states to approve it in addition to the 35 that endorsed it in the 1970s.

Opponents point out, however, the ERA had a seven-year timetable for ratification, unlike the 1789 measure that became the 27th Amendment. Even when Congress extended the deadline by three years to 1982, ERA advocates could not add to the 35 states that had ratified it by 1979. In addition, five of the 35 states that approved the ERA later voted to rescind their ratifications, an action that has yet to be ruled on by the Supreme Court as to its constitutionality.

Ratification of a constitutional amendment requires passage by three-fourths, or 38, of the states after a two-thirds vote in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

In addition to Arkansas, the other 14 states that never ratified the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

New ERA resolutions also have been introduced in the legislatures of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Virginia, according to 4ERA, a national organization promoting the amendment’s ratification.

The ERA’s text says: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”