Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search results

Iowa ERA Coalition

 Organization

The Iowa ERA Coalition was formed in November 1978 to seek voter approval of the state ERA. The Iowa ERA Coalition was comprised of approximately fifty member organizations. It disbanded in November 1980 when Iowa voters defeated the ERA initiative by a 56 to 44 percent margin. The Iowa General Assembly ratified the national Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) within twenty-four hours of its passage by the United States Congress in 1972. In 1977, Iowa legislators considered the first state ERA initiative. Iowa's ERA bill was a bipartisan effort and passed both the 1978 and 1979 general assemblies. To amend the state constitution, this measure had to go through a two-step process. First, state law required bicameral passage in two consecutive legislatures. Second, state law required approval by a majority of Iowa voters. The ERA became a ballot initiative in the 1980 Iowa general elections. Iowa was the only state in the nation to vote on an equal rights amendment in the 1980 elections. Just three states short of the thirty-eight required by Congress to ratify the national ERA amendment, the vote in Iowa was pivotal. A victory in Iowa, ERA proponents hoped, would precipitate the same outcome in bordering states Illinois and Missouri. All possible influence by Iowa became moot, however, when Iowa voters rejected the state equal rights amendment. The election results shocked many ERA faithful, for poll results had consistently shown that a majority of Iowa voters favored the ERA. Ultimately, Illinois and Missouri ERA initiatives met the same fate. Iowa ERA supporters attributed their defeat to an effective, last minute and "last-ditch" negative campaign blitz orchestrated by ERA opponents. From beginning to end, the ERA Coalition was castigated as supporters of homosexual marriage and the passage of Iowa's ERA amendment was portrayed as tantamount to legalizing homosexual marriage in Iowa. Despite continuous denials by ERA proponents, they were unable to erase the fear and doubts in the minds of Iowa voters that their vote for the ERA would be a vote for "alternative" life styles. Margaret "Peg" Anderson was the state chairperson and main spokesperson of the Iowa ERA Coalition. Her efforts were perhaps best summed up in a March 27, 1980 news article. The headline simply read: "This Woman Works." Anderson was a long-time Iowa resident who had had a varied political career.