A decade after Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 guaranteeing women the same legal protections as men, Georgia remained on the fence. Thirty-five states had ratified the measure, leaving the ERA—which took nearly 50 years to pass in Congress—three states short of meeting the three-fourths threshold and becoming the 28th Amendment. On January 18, 1982, the day before the Georgia House of Representatives’ first vote on the measure in seven years, ERA Georgia, a coalition of more than 40 organizations including members like five-year-old Katie Coates (above), pushed lawmakers to pass legislation. But its main opponent—a women’s group called Stop ERA in Georgia, organized by staunch conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly—proved more influential. The vote failed 116-57, and subsequent efforts to pass the measure, including a bipartisan push by the state Senate in 2019, have fallen short. Though some political observers argue the deadline to approve the ERA has passed, Illinois and Nevada voted to approve it in 2017 and 2018 respectively, meaning that only one state is now needed to amend the Constitution. [Editor’s note: After this story went to press, the Virginia House and Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment on January 15, 2020, but, as the Washington Post notes, “Numerous legal hurdles still have to be cleared before the ERA, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, would become part of the Constitution.”]
This article appears in our January 2020 issue.