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Decades after deadline, Nevada Senate committee passes Equal Rights Amendment

Updated February 22, 2017 - 6:17 pm

CARSON CITY — A state Senate committee approved a resolution ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment on Wednesday — decades after a deadline imposed by Congress.

The Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections voted 4-1 to pass the resolution, with Senate Co-Minority Whip James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, casting the lone “nay” vote.

It now goes to the full Senate, where passage is expected. It would then go to the Assembly and, if passed there, would be forwarded to Congress.

Senate Joint Resolution 2, introduced by Co-Majority Whip Patricia Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, was heard by the committee on Monday. Spearman said the amendment to the U.S. Constitution would ensure equal rights for men and women, including equality in the workplace and an avenue to fight sex discrimination.

Opponents argued it would erode anti-abortion efforts and could lead to women being drafted into the military.

Sen. Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, offered to amend the resolution Wednesday to assuage abortion concerns but was advised by Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes that such a move was not germane to the issue. Gansert then joined three Las Vegas-area Democrats — Sens. Nicole Cannizzaro, Tick Segerblom and Kelvin Atkinson — to approve it.

Gansert said Nevada has taken steps over the decades to fight discrimination, but she appreciated the renewed push for equal rights for women.

“I understand now today, here in Nevada and across the world, there’s a crescendo building … I can hear it, and I can feel it,” she said.

Cannizzaro, the committee chairwoman, said she was moved by the debate and discussion.

“Certainly, I am a younger woman and certainly have grown up with a number of opportunities my mother and grandmother did not have,” she said.

“I was very moved by a lot of the testimony,” she said. “I am supportive of this resolution.”

Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 and sent it to the states. A seven-year time limit for ratification was later extended until 1982.

The measure was ratified by 35 states — three short of those needed to amend the Constitution. But supporters say Congress may determine whether an amendment is valid even though a deadline passes.

The Nevada Legislature took up the amendment in the 1973, 1975 and 1977 sessions, where it failed each time. It was put to voters as an advisory question on the 1978 ballot and failed by a two-to-one margin.

In 1979 and 1981, voice votes not to consider the resolution cut off any action after it was introduced. The ERA resolution was introduced in the 2015 Legislature but failed to get out of committee.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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