The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas
State Legislator To Bring Back Equal Rights Amendment Resolution
By John Lyon
THE MORNING NEWS
LITTLE ROCK -- A state legislator said Tuesday she would propose again that Arkansas ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville, whose resolution proposing state ratification of the ERA was narrowly defeated in committee during the 2007 session, said she plans to bring back the resolution during the 2009 session and is confident it will pass this time.
"I've had legislators who've questioned it in the past say, 'Hey, I'm going to support it this time.' ... I think everything's in line to pass it in the next session," Smith said.
Jerry Cox, the executive director of the conservative Family Council, said his group will oppose the resolution, which he said would obliterate legal differences between men and women.
"I think it'll be a little easier to stop that, since we've already talked about it during the recent session," Cox said, noting that some of the legislators who initially signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution in 2007 later withdrew their sponsorship.
Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but to date only 35 states have ratified it. Approval in 38 states is required for the amendment to become part of the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment reads, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
Ratifying the amendment in Arkansas would send a message, Smith said.
"We're now in the column of 15 (states) that say gender equality is a bad idea. What this would do would make us No. 36 of the states that say gender equality is a good idea, and that's a great column to be in," she said.
Smith's 2007 resolution, which Gov. Mike Beebe supported, received a 10-10 vote in the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, falling just short of the 11 votes needed to advance.
Longtime ERA opponent Phyllis Schlafly testified before that committee that the amendment would cause women to be placed in combat, legalize same-sex marriage and eliminate restrictions on abortion.
Schlafly's arguments defied logic, Smith said Tuesday.
"Maybe people at the time believed that, but I don't think they'll fall for some of that this time," she said.