Equal Rights Amendment Sought for MN Constitution, Too
Carol McCarthy | Jan 17, 2020 AT 7:58 am
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Legal experts are debating whether the U.S. Constitution will be changed after the Equal Rights Amendment cleared a big hurdle this week. Even if it is, supporters want a similar change in Minnesota.
The federal amendment, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, reached a milestone when Virginia became the last state needed to ratify the proposal. Legal challenges are expected before the amendment becomes final.
Heather Allison, president of ERA Minnesota, points out that Minnesota was one of the earlier states to join the federal movement, but it's been a struggle to get a similar change adopted here.
"There has been legislation introduced every session for many, many years," says Allison. "And last session, for the first time, the ERA bills were passed out of the Minnesota House. And so, that was a huge success."
She says the amendment continues to face hurdles in the Minnesota Senate so it can be sent to voters for consideration. It's unclear if a state ERA will be considered again in the upcoming session.
On the federal level, 38 states have ratified the amendment - the two-thirds majority needed to push it forward.
Allison says states that have already adopted their own Equal Rights Amendments have done so with variations as to which forms of discrimination are covered. She says that's why it's important to have the extra level of legal protection, even if the federal amendment becomes final.
"It's very important for each state to have its own Equal Rights Amendment so that, as you're having cases of discrimination come up to the state Supreme Court level, you know, again, it can receive that level of scrutiny, that level of review that gives the defendant a higher chance of being successful," says Allison.
State lawmakers who have raised questions about the amendment say because it includes the word "gender," it could open the door to debates about transgender individuals using facilities designated for the opposite sex. They also claim it could be used to expand abortion rights.