Working for an ERA to Maine's state constitution
In the absence of a federal Equal Rights Amendment, many states have chosen to add ERAs to their state constitutions in order to guarantee full equality for all citizens. Twenty-six states, in fact, have taken such action.
In this 2023-24 session of the Maine Legislature, LD 1412 (introduced by Rep. Lois Reckitt (D)) is the ERA bill that would give constitutional backing to the categories of protection long provided by the Maine Human Rights Act.
LD 1412, “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine Establishing That All Maine Residents Have Equal Rights Under the Law” will align Maine’s Constitution with the Maine Human Rights Act, and protect people based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, physical or mental disability, ancestry or national origin of an individual.
Maine sets a high bar for constitutional amendments. This bill needs to get a ⅔ vote in both the House and the Senate, then it goes before the people as a referendum vote (where it only needs to get 50% plus one).
In 2019 Governor Janet Mills addressed the Judiciary Committee in support of the state ERA.
Maine Human Rights Commission
The Maine Human Rights Commission covers
It does NOT cover
Violence Against Women
Incarceration of Women
The Maine Human Rights Commission is responsible for handling sex discrimination cases in Maine, according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The MHRC has a mandate from the legislature to include certain areas of sex discrimination, but not all. Violence against Women claims, including sexual assault and domestic violence are not included; nor are the increasingly urgent issues of female incarceration, women's pensions, and insurance discrimination. A state ERA would broaden the mandate for the MHRC to more fully do its job.
Map image courtesy of Brennan Center for Justice. View full interactive map here.