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Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Florida
From 1972 to 1982, Florida lawmakers addressed the question of whether to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The amendment proposed that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Floridians’ response to the ERA mirrored the national divide over the amendment’s message on gender equality.
In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. The ERA, written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, was introduced in Congress in 1923. Not until 1972 was the ERA approved by both the U.S. House and Senate. It then went to the states for ratification, where it would need a three-fourths majority approval to become law.
By the original ratification deadline of 1979 (later extended to 1982), 35 state legislatures had approved the amendment. The ERA was three states shy of the 38 states needed to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Though the amendment passed the Florida House of Representatives on several occasions, it never passed the Senate. The final vote in 1982, the last session before the time period for ratification expired, was 60-58 in favor of ratification in the House and 22-16 against ratification in the Senate.
Photo credit: ERA supporters holding up their signs during a demonstration at the Capitol in Tallahassee.
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Pro-ERA forces march up Tallahassee's Apalachee Parkway to the capitol to show their support for the controversial amendment - Tallahassee, 1900 (circa)
Senator Lori Wilson wipes a tear from her eye following the defeat of the ERA in the Senate - Tallahassee, 1970 (circa)