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Former NOW President Eleanor Smeal urges ERA backers to make Louisiana 38th and final state to endorse the measure.

On a 4-3 party-line vote, a Louisiana Senate committee Wednesday endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment.

The proposal, Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, next faces action on the Senate floor.

Whether it will get a debate is unclear.

Backers said the proposal allows the state to be the 38th and final one needed to enact the measure, which dates backs to the 1970's, in the U.S. Constitution.

The amendment says, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex."

Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, sponsor of the legislation, said while the push for the ERA began before he was born, he got interested when Illinois endorsed it last year "in spite of the fact I knew it would be an uphill battle."

The Legislature is controlled by Republicans, and previous attempts to approve the amendment have died with little fanfare.

The office of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has declined to spell out the governor's views on the ERA.

Ashley Sheffield, an LSU sophomore, said approval of the amendment would benefit her generation.

Sheffield said students are often shocked to learn that Louisiana is last in the nation in gender pay equity.

"I want Louisiana to view me as an equal," she told the committee. "The trajectory of my future can be changed by the ERA."

The plan was opposed by officials of Louisiana Right to Life and the Louisiana Family Forum, which says it promotes traditional family values.

Opponents said the ERA would entrench abortion rights, which were made legal by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

Kristie Cross, general counsel for the Louisiana Family Forum, said the original deadline for approval was 1979, which was pushed back to 1982. "The bottom line is you can't go back and revive an expired amendment," Cross told senators.

Cross also said enactment of the ERA could subject women to being drafted into the military.

Morrell said the U.S. Constitution does not allow Congress to set deadlines for the approval of amendments.

Voting "yes" on the proposal were Sens. Karen Carter Peterson, Wesley Bishop, Troy Carter and Morrell, all New Orleans Democrats.

Voting against the measure were Sens. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville; Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro and Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.

The panel that approved the legislation is the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee.


Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.