Joan S. Carver


The Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was one of the most volatile and divisive issues facing the Florida legislature in the 1970s. Lobbying was active on the issue, shifts in support by legislators were frequent, and votes closely divided. Adding to the intensity of the deliberations was the importance of the Florida vote. By 1977 thirty-five states had approved the amendment, only three states short of the thirty-eight necessary for adoption. Despite vigorous efforts on its behalf, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was not ratified by the Florida legislature, and Florida was joined in history with those states which rejected the amendment. What caused the defeat of an amendment which received overwhelming support in the United States Senate and House of Representatives when it was proposed and was approved by thirty state legislatures in the first year after its transmittal to the states? An examination of the treatment of the amendment in Florida suggests that the ERA became an issue whose significance transcended its actual content. It aroused opposition because for some it symbolized a broad spectrum of threatening political and social changes.