For a few hours today Del. Dorothy McDiarmid (D-Fairfax) believed she had discovered a parliamentary way to help the Equal Rights Amendment w approval from the Virginia General Assembly.

But late afternoon found McDiarmid far less optimistic as her proposal appeared caught in a legislative morass. "I don't know whether we can get anywhere or not," she said wearily. "I'm just going to let it fly and see what happens."

For all her efforts, the fate of the bill to ratify the amendment still seemed to remain in the hands of two men who have consistently opposed it: House Speaker A.L. Philpott (D-Henry), who this week gave ERA opponents a majority on a key legislative committee, and Del. Claude Anderson (D-Buckingham) the chairman of that committee.

"I don't think the chances for ERA have changed one little bit since we've convened," Anderson said today. "They've never been very well."

McDiarmid today introduced a measure to allow the amendment, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, to bypass Anderson's Privileges and Elections committee and come straight to the floor of the House, where she hopes it would receive more favorable treatment. The Virginia legislature has failed to ratify the amendment during sessions covering the past nine years.

Philpott told reporters that McDiarmid's proposal, which came in the form of an amendment to the House rules, would have to remain on his desk for five working days before it could be considered by the House. That would mean the House could not vote on the proposed rules change until Wednesday afternoon -- hours after Anderson's committee is expected to consider and kill the ERA bill.

Anderson said today that he will ask his committee, which is weighted almost 2-to-1 against the ratification bill, not to vote on it until after the rules change is considered. The amendment will die this summer unless three more state legislatures approve it.

Earlier, McDiarmid had hoped to bypass Anderson's committee by asking the House to constitute itself as a committee in order to consider the ERA bill on the floor. That strategy was derailed when Del. Lace Putney (I-Bedford), a staunch ERA opponent, introduced an ERA bill himself, thus sending the matter to the committee McDiarmid had been trying to avoid.