Equal Rights Amendment Passed by House, 354‐23 – Black History

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By EILEEN SHANAHAN        OCT. 13, 1971

October 13, 1971, Page 1 The New York Times Archives

This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive. To preserve articles as they originally appeared in print — before the start of online publication in 1996 — The Times does not alter, edit or update these articles.

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 12—The House of Representatives passed today, 354 to 23, a constitutional amendment prohibiting discrimination based on sex.

The amendment was passed in the form long favored by women’s rights advocates.

The key vote was on the issue of including in the amendment provisions that would continue the legality of drafting men, but not women, into the armed forces and provisions asserting the validity of many existing laws that treat men and women differently.

Women’s rights advocates said that these provisions nullified the intention of the Equal Rights Amendment, as it is known. They were stricken from the amendment by a vote of 265 to 87.

Today’s vote marked the second time in two years that the House has passed the amendment in the form advocated by women’s rights activists. Last year, there were only 15 votes against.

The amendment will now go to the Senate, which has never passed it in the version that feminists want, although it has passed amended versions three times.Continue reading the main story

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The fate of the amendment in the Senate in the current Congress is uncertain. If the Senate does pass it, it must be ratified by 38 states to become effective. The Senate majority leader, Mike Mansfield of Montana, has placed the bill on the Senate calendar so it can legally be called up for a vote at any time. This was a device to keep the Senate Judiciary Committee, where there is strong apposition to the amendment, from burying it there.

Since Mr. Mansfield can bring up the bill at any time, the Judiciary Committee is expected to act on it.

But there appeared to be strong probability that Senator Sam J. Ervin Jr. of North Carolina, the commitee’s leading opponent of the amendment, would be able to attach provisions similar to those that feminists find unacceptable and that were defeated in the House today.

Whether these provisions could then be eliminated on the Senate floor was questionable. Women’s rights groups expressed optimism that they would pick up more and more votes for their position as the 1972 elections drew closer.

The day’s debate in the House was long and conducted before galleries that were two‐thirds full of women of all ages, —ranging from elderly veterans of the fight for the women’s suffrage amendment, which was adopted in 1920, to college and high‐school girls.

At one point in the debate, Representative Thomas G. Abernethy, Democrat of Mississippi, said that enactment of the amendment would mean that there was no way of compelling a man to support his family. And he said that his wife had instructed him to vote against the amendment “because she doesn’t want to lose her home.”

Mr. Abernethy was followed to the rostrum by Representative Bella S. Abzug, Democrat of Manhattan, who started her speech with the announcement, “I do not come here under instructions from my husband as to how to vote.”

The galleries applauded and cheered—which is forbidden by the rules of the House.

Of the 11 women members of the House, nine, including Mrs. Abzug, voted for the amendment today. One absentee, Representative Edith Green, Democrat of Oregon, has supported it in the past. The lone opponent among the women members was Representative Leonor K. Sullivan, Democrat of Missouri.

The text of the amendment, H. J. Res. 208, is as follows:

Section 1. Equality of rights 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.

Most of the debate focused on the question of whether women would have to he drafted, if men were, if the amendment were adopted.

The sponsor of the modirication of the amendment that would have exempted women from compulsory military service, Representative Charles. E. Wiggins, Republican of California, said that the general counsel of the Department of Defense had told him it would be “impossible for the military to operate” If the amendment were adopted.

Not only would the services be forced to draft more women than they wanted, he said, but separate barracks and other separate facilities would not be permitted.

Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, demanded to know why, if the military was concerned, it had not asked to testify at the hearings on the amendment. Mr. Wiggins said that he could not answer that question.

A version of this archives appears in print on October 13, 1971, on Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Equal Rights Amendment Passed by House, 354‐23. Order ReprintsToday’s Paper|Subscribe