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February 24, 2005

Nevada lawmaker raises equal rights issue


CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A Nevada lawmaker's attempt to revive the federal Equal Rights Amendment has been thwarted by a legal opinion finding the amendment has expired.

Assemblywoman Kathy McClain planned to introduce the ERA - an amendment prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender - this week. But she said the Legislature's legal advisers told her that because a 1982 deadline for adoption had passed, ratification efforts could only be resurrected by a vote in the U.S. Congress.

McClain, D-Las Vegas, has instead requested a draft resolution supporting equal rights for women and urging Congress to propose a new equal rights amendment. The Elections Committee approved the request in a quick huddle on the Assembly floor Thursday.

The ERA was approved by Congress in 1972, but failed to pass the 38 state legislatures necessary for ratification by the 1982 deadline set by Congress. Nevada lawmakers rejected the amendment in five legislative sessions, voting it down for the last time in a 30-second voice vote in 1981.

But many women's rights advocates now argue that the 1982 deadline wasn't the end of line. They point to the Madison Amendment, a congressional pay measure adopted in 1992 after a ratification process that lasted 203 years.

Since then, a "three state strategy" has emerged. Its premise is that if three of the 15 states that rejected the ERA ratify it now, a legal case could be made for the amendment's adoption.

Legislators in Illinois and Florida already have reintroduced the ERA this year. Similar resolutions are likely in Virginia and Georgia, said Roberta Francis, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organization's ERA task force.

Noting that women's salaries still lag behind men's, McClain said the amendment is needed "now more than ever."

Her effort inspired little enthusiasm from her colleagues.

Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, voted against the request for the resolution, saying she doesn't think women need special protections.

"It's just not necessary," she said. "I'm sitting here in a seat that was once occupied by a man. I don't think I got here because I'm a woman. Society has changed so that woman are judged by their abilities."

Senate Majority Leader William Raggio, R-Reno, said he worries the issue may be a distraction from other priorities on the Legislature's agenda.

"It's something that's just going stir up all kinds of arguments," he said.


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