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Propositions ’86: Vermont ERA Appears To Be Defeated

MEG DENNISONNovember 5, 1986

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Vermonters have defeated an equal rights amendment to the state Constitution by a narrow margin, according to unofficial returns.

With 88 percent of the precincts reporting today, 49 percent of the voters cast ballots in favor of the amendment, while 51 percent voted against the ERA.

Sixteen states have ERAs in their constitution.

The amendment read: ″Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Vermont or any of its political subdivisions on account of the sex of the individual.″

No state has approved an ERA in 10 years. Vermont was the seventh state to reject the amendment in referendums during the last decade.

The issue has aroused impassioned debate in Vermont and was seen by ERA backers and opponents as an indicator of efforts to resurrect a drive for an equal rights amendment to the federal Constitution. Vermont was the only state to have such an amendment on the ballot this year.

Eleanor Smeal of the National Organization for Women, which for the first time in 10 years had actively promoted a statewide ERA, said Tuesday night that even if the ERA lost, a close vote was encouraging.

″Whatever happens, we already know it’s close, and that’s a substantial improvement,″ she said. ″We were far less on the defensive than we have been in past campaigns.″ She noted that in Maine in 1984, an ERA lost by a 2-1 margin.

Nancy Stringer, director of the primary anti-ERA group, the Vermont ERA Information Committee, said defeat of the amendment would allow Vermont ″to continue our traditions and freedoms and rights as we always have.″

Phyllis Schlafly, director of the national conservative Eagle Forum that also put defeat of the ERA high on its agenda, said in Burlington today that a federal ERA is as dead as the prohibition movement.

Meanwhile, Nedene Martin, a spokewoman for the pro-ERA group, the Vermont Coalition for an Equal Rights Amendment, said the struggle for women’s rights in Vermont is not over. She noted, ″It took more than 80 years to get the vote.″

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