22222222STATE LEGISLATORS ON THE FRONT LINES IN FIGHT FOR EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT AND EQUAL PROTECTIONS ON THE BASIS OF SEX
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 22, 2023
Contact: Chrisi West, firstname.lastname@example.org
State lawmakers are introducing more than a dozen bills across the U.S. protecting sex equality
Washington, DC –– A dozen state houses are currently considering Equal Rights Amendment-related resolutions on what is the 51st anniversary of Congress’ passage of the ERA. California started the trend last year by passing a resolution affirming the validity of the amendment as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Colorado passed a bipartisan resolution last month. Legislators in Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and Tennessee have introduced similar resolutions.
State legislators from across the U.S. joined the ERA Coalition for a virtual multi-state press conference today to talk about the importance of their work. You can watch the full press conference recording here.
SUMMARY OF INTRODUCED STATE LEGISLATION
- Ratification of the 1972 Federal Equal Rights Amendment – Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina
- Affirming the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution – California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Tennessee
- Adding an Equal Rights Amendment to the state constitution – Nevada, New York, Minnesota, and Maine
- Audit of State Laws and Administrative Codes – California, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina
Twelve states have not yet ratified the ERA, but this could change soon with ratification bills being recently introduced in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Legislation is also being introduced in preparation for states’ compliance with the Equal Rights Amendment. California’s legislature ordered a study of its state statutes by the California Law Revision Commission. Legislators and advocates have also begun reviewing state laws for facial gender discrimination in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
Impatient for a federal amendment, more states have added a gender equality provision to their state constitutions in recent years, including Delaware and Oregon. Nevada voters approved an expansive state ERA last year, and New York voters have the chance to do the same with a 2024 ballot initiative. Minnesota and Maine proposals for state-level ERAs have also gained attention. A Brennan Center for Justice study recently found that over half of states have some form of equal protection language for gender in their constitutions.
On the anniversary of Congress passing the Equal Rights Amendment to the states, state legislators shared how they continue working for a federal guarantee for gender equality. “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t, in fact, guarantee equality of the sexes,” Colorado State Senator Lisa Cutter noted to her colleagues. “Women and LGBT folks are relegated to second class legal status by courts and by the law.”
From a yet unratified state, North Carolina State Representative Julie von Haefen commented that “Some people may ask why our state still needs to pass a bill regarding the ERA after Virginia became the final state necessary for ratification in 2020. North Carolina’s history has shown that constitutional ratification is an essential statement of States’ rights at any time. Ratifying the ERA even now is a chance for North Carolina to make amends for being the last state to ratify the 19th.”
“Women are full participants in our society and that fact should be recognized in our U.S. Constitution, as it is in our Iowa Constitution,” said Iowa State Senator Bill Dotzler. “That’s why I am working with advocates like the League of Women Voters of Iowa and initiated a study of our state laws and regulations to see where Iowa might need to do better.”
On the need for adding a state ERA: “In the past couple of years, Minnesota has made significant progress on women’s issues, including strengthening domestic violence laws and protecting the right to choose,” said Minnesota State Representative Kristin Bahner. “To build on those successes we need to acknowledge that Minnesotans are currently not legally protected based on their sex or gender. Now is the time for Minnesota to call on Congress to recognize the ERA and ensure all citizens’ equality under the law.”
“This year in New York State, days after what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade, we affirmed yet again that we will not allow New Yorkers to be pulled backward, we will not allow the progress we have made on reproductive freedom to be undone – we passed an Equal Rights Amendment to our state constitution to include not only women, but also LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, Latinos, and everyone who has faced discrimination based on characteristics that are beyond their control. New York voters will have the final say, and I have no doubt that they will come down on the side of equal rights. It’s long past time we did the same for the U.S. Constitution,” said New York State Senator Liz Krueger.
Minnesota State Representative Kaohly Her said, “States that have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment have better women’s success rates overall, a better climate for women in business, better employment rates for people with disabilities, and the statistics go on and on. The measurements of women’s well-being are clear. Now is the time to enshrine these rights in the Minnesota State Constitution and see every Minnesotan reach their full potential.”
Florida State Senator Lori Berman said that “without the ERA, so much positive momentum from legislation like equal pay for equal work, pregnancy discrimination protections and paid leave for women in the workplace could all be erased or changed, as these issues are not constitutionally guaranteed. It is time for Florida to enshrine in our Constitution the understanding that everyone truly is created equal – men and women alike. My commitment to ensuring passage of the ERA has not waivered, and I remain grateful to the pioneering women who blazed the path before us.”
“As a civil rights attorney, I cannot underscore enough the importance of anti-discrimination laws to protect against sex discrimination. While over 90% of all Americans across party lines support treating men and women equally under the law, many assume that the law already does so, but it does not. The Constitution affords women the right to vote, but not to be treated equally. There are a number of statutes that help counter sex discrimination–like Title VII (employment), Title IX (education), and the Ledbetter Act (wage discrimination)—but are not sufficient. Instead of having these piecemeal statutes, the ERA will create a permanent, uniform, and national standard for eliminating sex discrimination by the government at all levels–especially as states like Florida take aim at gender studies and actively undermine laws against sex discrimination in an anti-woke crusade. Rather than relying on readily re-pealable statutes, the ERA would enshrine a women’s right to be treated equally under the law protected in the Constitution, ” said Florida State Representative Dotie Joseph.
Some legislators remember the original push for ratification, like Indiana State Representative Sue Errington who worked with a coalition for Indiana’s ratification in 1977. “Putting women’s equality into the Constitution is just as relevant today as it was then,” she says. For others, “the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced right before I was born in 1972. It is absolutely ridiculous that it has not been ratified, said Arizona State Representative Nancy Gutierrez. “Gender equality under the law will provide women the legal right for equal pay and allow women better protection from state law enforcement from gender violence. Our rights should not be subject to which political party is in power. We must ratify the ERA for ourselves and the future generations of women. This is the right thing to do and it is the right time to get this done!”
Minnesota State Senator Sandy Pappas agreed saying, “It is well past time to guarantee equal legal rights for all U.S. citizens, regardless of sex. The U.S. Constitution does not specifically provide equal protection under the law regardless of sex, a gap in protection that leaves millions of people vulnerable to civil rights violations. I’m proud to be chief author of legislation that would urge Congress to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th amendment. Fifty years after Minnesota ratified the ERA, we must ensure freedom and equality for every person in the U.S.”
“It is well past time to guarantee equal legal rights for all people in the U.S.,” said Minnesota Senator Mary Kunesh. “I am dedicated to ensuring that no Minnesotan remains vulnerable and exposed to historic inequities. I’m proud to be a co-author of a bill to advance the Equal Rights Amendment toward its rightful place in the U.S. Constitution, a move that will protect people of all genders across the country. I’m also proud to be chief author of a bill that would ask Minnesotan voters to amend our state constitution to guarantee equality under the law, regardless of a person’s race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin. Without an explicit guarantee, secured in our state constitution, that these rights are protected and are held equally by all citizens, we legislators are not representing our constituents across Minnesota in the best way.”
“The ERA transforms what is currently implicit into the unambiguous and strengthens the bedrock of our most dearly held American value – that all people are created equal,” noted Arizona State Representative Laura Terech. “The ERA is more important than ever before because it addresses the persistent issue of gender-based discrimination that still exists in many areas of society, including employment, education, and access to healthcare. By guaranteeing equal rights, the ERA would help to ensure that gender equality is recognized as a fundamental right. It’s time to move forward.”
In addition to calling on Congress to affirm that the Equal Rights Amendment is fully ratified, some legislators are proceeding with the expectation that the ERA will be certified as our newest amendment, like Ohio State Senator Paula Hicks-Hudson. “As a former member of the Ohio Business and Professional Women, I am proud to begin the process of reviewing our state’s laws to ensure that they do not create barriers and different treatment of Ohioans based upon antiquated and out-dated gender-specific terms/words,” said Hicks-Hudson. “It is important that our statutes and codes equally apply to all Ohioans regardless of gender or sex. During Women’s History Month, we need genuine and honest efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment,” added Hicks-Hudson.
“As women’s rights continue to be under attack in our country, we must work to certify the Equal Rights Amendment to protect future generations of women,” said Ohio State Representative Anita Somani. “Enshrining the rights of women in the Constitution will create equal pay, equal access to services, and will boost our economy. It is time we urge the Archivist to certify the ERA.”
“We need the ERA in our constitution because without it there is no text that clearly prohibits discrimination and inequality on the basis of our gender,” said North Carolina State Senator Natalie Murdock. “The ERA would make enforceable protections for North Carolina women in cases related to gender violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination based on pregnancy and motherhood. Frankly, 100s of North Carolina laws may need to change.” North Carolina advocates are in the process of reviewing the state’s laws.
“More than 70 percent of Americans think we already have sex equality in our Constitution, but even after 100 years of struggle, we don’t. It has never been more clear that we need those protections to prevent further roll back of our rights; it’s past time that we acknowledge that the Equal Rights Amendment is valid and enforceable today,” said Zakiya Thomas, President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality. “We’re grateful to the dozens of state legislators for their unwavering leadership for gender equality, and that the opponents of the ERA are on the wrong side of history here.”
State lawmakers across the country agree that every person should be treated with respect and fairness, and protected against unequal treatment under the law, and they have pledged to continue that work. That is what the text of the Equal Rights Amendment says, and that is what it will do.
**A list of pending state ERA initiatives is available upon request.
The ERA Coalition was founded in 2014 to bring concerted, organized action to the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA Coalition has a sister organization, the Fund for Women’s Equality, which promotes public education and outreach on the need for constitutional equality. Composed of more than 280 organizations across the country, the Coalition provides education and advocacy on Constitutional Equality.
While the effort to amend the Constitution to include sex equality began nearly a century ago, our renewed efforts are centered on women of color (Black, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Latina, and Native American), gender-nonconforming and transgender women and girls, and nonbinary people – those who are most impacted by systemic inequities.