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June 30, 1982: The Day the ERA Dies

By
PATRICIA McCORMMCK, United Press International

Celebration and mourning both mark June 30, 1982, the day the Equal Rights Amendment dies.

In both cases, the sentiment is heartfelt. The mourning losers are those who campaigned nearly 10 years for ratification of the proposed amendment to the Constitution. The winners are those who fought to keep the proposal from being approved by the required 38 states.

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Autopsies of the ERA -- and there will be many -- undoubtedly will show no one thing or person killed it.

The actual agents who killed it were the deeply divided state legislators in states that did not ratify the amendment, even though polls in some of those states -- whose accuracy themselves was controversial -- showed more than half the voters favored ERA.

Both celebrations and wakes are planned in the nation's capital.

In a Washington hotel Phyllis Schlafly, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and others who fought ERA for a decade will join in an 'Over the Rainbow' celebration. Mrs. Schlafly said the victors will cheer the beginning of a new era of harmony between women and men.

In Lafayette Park, across from the White House, the losers, led by Eleanor Smeal, president of the National Organization for Women, will rally in mourning. Ms. Smeal said the rally also will mark the start of a new campaign called 'Until Justice is Ours' which she said is shaping up as Round Two of the ERA battle.

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Smeal discounts the suggestion fear of unisex toilets and a draft for women beat ERA. She blames big business and said the new campaign will include boycotts of firms that discriminate against women -- plus court action, against discrimination.

Charging women earn 59 cents on the dollar to what men are paid for similar work, Smeal says boycotts would supply incentive for equality by making discriminating firms feel it in the cash register.

Birth of the new ERA 'crusade' is expected soon after Congress returns from its Fourth of July holiday and certain congressmen re-introduce an ERA amendment to start the ratification process back at square one.

No one knows as yet if the language will be the same as that of the ERA that died.

That language:

Section 1: 'Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.'

Section 2: 'The Congress shall have the power to enforce by appropriate legislation the provisions of this article.'

Section 3: 'This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.'

The ERA officially dies at midnight, June 30, when it falls three states shorts of the required 38 for ratification. Death was sealed last week when Florida and then Illinois legislatures rejected ratification.

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The death of ERA has been called a tragedy, a great accomplishment, a disgrace, a vindication for right, depending, of course, on which side of the ERA fence one stood.

'I think it is a disgrace, an outrage against the will of men and women,' said Betty Friedan, founder of the National Organization for Women and author of 'The Feminine Mystique,' the book that started the women's liberation movement, a crusade that helped make the ERA sprout in Congress.

'We will get it before his century is over, maybe in the '80s.

'We will get it because women are outraged and will turn the country around.'

'The basic thrust of the women's movement cannot be reversed,' Ms. Friedan said from her summer home in Sag Harbor, N.Y.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, Barbara Smith, president of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, the 1.6 million member Mormon women's organization, said:

'We hope the divisive struggle that has encompassed the ERA will end and that some very positive things might begin to emerge -- such as we hope both men and women will use their energies cooperatively to create a finer society than we have yet known.

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'And we hope efforts of individuals will be expended in sharing a loving concern for the well being of each individual to unite our nation under God.'

In New York City, Muriel Fox, president of the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund, said:

'I think the death of the ERA is a tragedy.

'Even though time is not on our side for the deadline time will be on our side for the ultimate passage of an ERA. I see more and more women and men understanding our goals more fully, especially as their daughters enter the job market and as more wives turn to work outside the home to make ends meet.'

In Las Vegas, Nev., Jacqui Davison, founder of Happiness of Womanhood, an anti-ERA organization dating from 1973, said:

'The defeat of the ERA is just wonderful. It is good newsfor the family and for the happiness of womanhood.'

In Alton, Ill., Mrs. Schlafly echoed the sentiments.

'I think the defeat of the ERA is a tremendous victory for women and for families.'

Where did the ERA crusaders go wrong?

'They didn't have a product to sell,' Mrs. Schlaflyy said. 'And I think a grievous tactical error was made when they got President Carter to come out in favor of drafting women.'

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What will happen to Mrs. Schlafly's 'STOP ERA' organization, now that the ERA has been stopped?

'It will fold into the Eagle Forum,' she said. That Forum, 50,000 members, was set up to help crusades for strong families -- a type Mrs. Schlafly describes as the husband out earning the living, the mother home keeping the homefront and taking care of the children.

Sarah Alice Wright, executive director of the National Board of the YWCA, said members at the annual meeting in Washington mourned ERA June 6 at a prayer vigil on the steps of the National Cathedral.

It was led by YMCA President Mrs. Jewel Graham, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio.

'The spirit of that vigil,' said Mrs. Wright, 'was that we are not going to view what happened to the ERA as defeat. We will continue the crusade.'

Mrs. Wright said many women apparently did not understand what the language of the amendment meant.

'Many women did not recognize that there are gaps in the laws, gaps that would have been bridged by the ERA.'

At headquarters of the National Council of Churches, New York City, Dr. Claire Randall, general secretary of the Council which includes 30 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican Communions, said:

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'One can only be sad that the fear of a minority has tarnished our national proclamation that freedom and equality are the right of all people because we are all made in God's image. Until women are included in the constitution -- and they will be one day -- that promise cannot be fulfilled.'

In Washington, D.C., Sister Lora Ann Quinonez, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Women Religious, which comprises heads of 370 women's Catholic religious communities in America, said the LCWR has been participating in the Religious Committee for the ERA, a coalition of different denominations trying to explain 'the religious and moral values that undergird the ERA, to state to religious people that there can and should be justice for women before the law.'

'We have for years made systematic efforts to educate members of the church (on the ERA),' she said. 'It's a justice question, a moral question.'

What does the defeat mean for women religious -- nuns?

'I think it means the same as to other women who are concerned about justice for women,' Sister Quinonez sais. 'One thing it shouldn't mean is that we should examine 'everything that went wrong.' I feel the burden for someone who didn't act justly is on that someone, not the person who has suffered the injustice.

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'We should also continue a serious discussion that, from a religious point of view, there's an absolute mandate for justice and justice should not exclude any one or any group.

'...we need to keep asking persistently why there has been such a deafening silence of the official Catholic Church of the United States. Some individual bishops have spoken out, but the official structure of the U.S. Catholic Church has been very loudly silent (on the ERA).

'And since the church has various statements about justice and rights for women, I think we have to keep raising persistently the question, 'Why?''

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, also based in Washington, D.C., didn't support or didn't fight the ERA. Bill Ryan, spokesman, said there would be no comment on the death of the ERA.

Dorothy Ridings, president of the League of Women Voters, said:

'We have learned so much in 10 years that simply is never going to be lost, which is going to be translated into a lot of other issues as well as ERA. It has taught women how to play political hardball.'

Bella Abzug, former congresswoman who was among those introducing the ERA in the House of Representatives, said:

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'There is anger over the death of the ERA. But out of anger comes energy. What we need is non-stop action to take out all the obstructionists, from Reagan on down.'

Patricia Carbine, publisher of Ms. Magazine, the publication that sprouted from the women's movement, said, 'Remember it took 72 years for women to get the vote in this country.'

She was confident that the ERA will be ratified eventually.

The same sentiments came from Gloria Steinem, editor of Ms. and a leading women's movement figure. Steinem interprets the defeat of the ERA movement at the hands of male legislators at the state legislature level as a mandate to elect more women to those assemblies.

The National Organization for Women claimed the life insurance industry benefits from the death of the ERA.

In a statement, the American Council of Life Insurance reacted to that charge.

'The American Council of Life Insurance, which represents insurance companies accounting for 95 percent of life insurance in force, does not oppose the Equal Rights Amendment,' the statement said.

'NOW's claim that the life insurance business somehow profits by using sex-distinct rates is totally false. Sex-distinct pricing allows companies to set fair prices for groups of people.

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'If the rates were merged, so that men and women paid equal rates regardless of their risk of death or sickness at different ages, some people would pay more for insurance than they do now, and some would pay less.

'The extra cost of converting to that system would be paid by everyone.'

'It is unfortunate that NOW has distorted the facts...'

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