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Poll: Nearly 70% of Utahns support ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Christian Nunes, vice president of the National Organization for Women, center top, joins the Utah ERA Coalition on the steps of the State Capitol building to urge legislators to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and prove their commitment to elevating the women on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, during the first day of the 2020 legislative session.

Nearly 70% of Utahns support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, according to a new statewide poll from The Salt Lake Tribune and Suffolk University.

A similar share of people, 71%, said they favored the state Legislature ratifying the ERA in another poll from UtahPolicy.com in early January.

Advocates who have pushed for ERA ratification in Utah said they’re pleased to see these consistent numbers. “To me, it just means that Utah is ready to move forward,” said Amy Rich, co-founder of Fair Utah, which organized recent rallies to show support at the Capitol, including one on Jan. 27 when the Legislature began.

Sara Vranes, one of the Utah leaders of Mormons for ERA, said the polls encourage her to keep going to legislators and telling them, “We need to you to listen. We need you to go talk to your constituents. We need you to reflect them when you’re on the Hill.”

After first being proposed in the 1920s, the ERA — which states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex" — passed the U.S. Senate and House in 1972. Vranes and others gathered at The Wave, a since-closed Salt Lake City workspace for women, last month to watch the vote as Virginia became the 38th and final state needed to add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Advocates expect there will be legal challenges ahead, though. Five states have voted to rescind their ratification. And some have argued that a 1982 deadline set by Congress could negate more recent ratification votes. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., has proposed a resolution in the U.S. House to try to remove that deadline.

Although Virginia snagged the spot as the 38th state, “we also want to have it on our books in Utah” and become the 39th or 40th state, Vranes said. According to the poll by The Tribune and Suffolk University, 69.4% of Utahns agree. The poll surveyed 500 Utahns from Jan. 18 to Jan. 22 over landlines and cellphones. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Of those surveyed, 53.8% said they strongly support and 15.6% somewhat support Utah ratifying the ERA. Another 20% strongly or somewhat opposed, while 10.6% didn’t provide a stance.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, joins the Utah ERA Coalition on the steps of the State Capitol building to urge colleagues to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and prove their commitment to elevating the women on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, during the first day of the 2020 legislative session.

“Today, the idea of having the ERA move forward is almost innocuous,” said Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, who introduced a joint resolution calling on Utah to vote for ratification.

As the session kicked off, Kwan said she’s seen “a split” response from her colleagues to her resolution. Some told her “they will vote yes for it if it can get out of committee,” she said, but were hesitant to publicly endorse it. “Many people want to take a [position of] back-seat support on this,” Kwan said.

In the poll, support was consistent across the ages, sexes, political viewpoints and religions surveyed. Men were slightly more likely than women to say they supported ratification. Of the 242 men and 258 women surveyed, 71% of men said Utah should ratify the ERA, while 67% of women favored ratification.

Younger people were more likely to say they supported the ERA. The poll shows that 74% of those ages 18 to 34 favored ratification, while 62% of people 65 and older said they did.

Liberals (80%) and moderates (74%) support ratifying the ERA more than conservatives (63%), according to the poll.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints support Utah ratifying the ERA. According to the poll, 71% of very active members and 80% of inactive Latter-day Saints are in favor.

Among somewhat active members, 53% are in favor. While that dip may seem surprising, the somewhat active group was smaller and had a higher margin of error, Suffolk University notes. Sixty somewhat active members were surveyed, compared with 185 very active and 41 not active.

The high approval rates mean “it’s working ... what we’re doing,” Vranes said. Legislators should look at these numbers “and think outside the box they’ve been in for 30 years."

During the push to ratify the ERA in the 1970s and ’80s, church leaders published articles, distributed pamphlets and lobbied against the amendment, encouraging members to do the same. They feared it could damage families and pave the way for gay marriage, women in the military, unisex restrooms and increased abortions.

In December, a church spokesman announced its position has not changed. The Utah Eagle Forum has also voiced opposition to the ERA, citing similar concerns as the church.

Meanwhile, the Murray and Salt Lake City councils have passed resolutions in support of Utah ratifying the ERA.

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.

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