Why do we need an Equal Rights Amendment in Maine?

Kathy is an employee in a small business who is facing sexual harassment from her manager.  She does her job, she resists, she protests, and finally she files a complaint.  Her manager is reprimanded and told not to touch or speak to Kathy inappropriately.

 

Both Kathy and her manager return to their jobs but now she is ridiculed and shunned by fellow employees. Her boss does everything he can to make her days miserable.  Her co-workers advance and get raises but, despite doing her job well, she does not. She eventually quits.

Kathy didn't file a complaint complaint with the EEOC because it only covers businesses with 15 or more employees. She had no good recourse because, while it is against the law to treat someone differently because of the color of their skin, mistreating a person because of their sex is harder to prosecute.

 

Workers experiencing clear and sustained sex discrimination find that in order to win a case, they must show that their employer intended to discriminate and that the agency had a policy of discrimination.  It is not enough to show evidence of discrimination based on sex, they must prove that the discrimination was intentional. 

What does LD 433 say?

“Equality of rights under the law may not be denied or abridged by the state or any political subdivision of the state based on the sex of an individual.”

In May 2019, the Maine Senate approved these words by a solid 2/3 majority! 

The vote in the Maine House has been held over to January 2020. 

Nine Independent and Republican Representatives will need to join their Democrat colleagues and vote in favor of this resolution to achieve the necessary 2/3 majority.  Once passed both Houses, the amendment will be put to Maine voters in a Referendum.  At that time, Mainers will be the ones to decide whether men and women should be treated equally by the laws of the state.

Maine’s Constitution was written in 1820, when women were considered under the protection of men, with limited legal rights.  The lofty language of equality pertained only to white, male citizens.  It would be another 100 years and the 19th Amendment before women could vote. A literal interpretation of our Maine Constitution still does not give women full equality under the law.

With this history, women deserve to be clearly included in the Constitution and not subject to ‘interpretation’.   Even though our State Constitution’s gender-biased language was corrected by amendment in 1988, changing ‘he’ to ‘person’, there is no provision against sex discrimination.  

In Maine, an appointed Human Rights Commission reviews sex discrimination employment cases cases. There are long waits and difficulty in full and effective prosecution without the clear constitutional basis that discrimination by race, religion and national origin has.  Twenty-six states in the U.S. now have constitutions with ERA language.  It is time for Maine to join that group and prohibit sex discrimination in our state constitution.

FAQ's about LD 433

Is a State Constitutional Amendment worth the bother? 

When it protects half the population otherwise not included? YES.

When the laws on the books cannot be properly enforced because they lack constitutional basis and are subject to a biased interpretation by the courts? YES.

 

Would the State ERA encourage abortions?

Abortion has been legal in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade (1973).  The case was decided based on the legal premise of Privacy, not Equality between the sexes.  Most of us want there to be fewer abortions but there are better ways to reduce the number of abortions (complete health care, contraception, sex education) than to deny women their equal constitutional rights. Should opposition to abortion prevent equality in how the law treats women in every other regard?  NO

 

 Would the ERA force women into the draft and the military?

Women now make up 14% of the nation's armed forces, by choice. There has not been a compulsory draft since 1972.  Women now hold combat positions but they are not always paid fairly or able to advance accordingly, to be on a par with their male cohorts. An ERA would remedy that inequity.

 

Would the ERA undermine the 'American family'?

In the U.S., 62% of mothers (and 66% of fathers) work outside the home. The ERA would help those families, with fair and equal pay for equal work, equal education and job opportunities, equal access to medical care and better protection from sexual harassment and sexual violence. These families would be better served if all members of the family were equally represented by the laws of the land.

Every modern constitution in the world specifically mentions the rights of girls and women with the exception of Iran, Somalia, Sudan and the United States .

What about the U.S. Constitution?

No, the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution was never fully ratified by the States. (Read more.) Without federal protection against sex discrimination, women and men need those protections in their state constitution.

Key Issues of Sex Discrimination:

  • Pay inequity: equal pay for equal work

  • Gender and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace

  • Sexual Violence

  • Fair access to medical care

The ERA is about treating people equally under the law. People are different. The sexes are different. But should they be treated equally by law? That's the issue.

What about the State Constitutions?

These state constitutions contain equal rights amendments and original constitutional equal rights provisions:

Alaska – No person is to be denied the enjoyment of any civil or political right because of race, color, creed, sex or national origin. The legislature shall implement this section. Alaska Constitution, Article I, §3 (1972)
 

California – A person may not be disqualified from entering or pursuing a business, profession, vocation, or employment because of sex, race, creed, color, or national or ethnic origin. California Constitution, Article I, §8 (1879) – The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting. California Constitution, Article I, §31(a) (1996)
 

Colorado – Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Colorado or any of its political subdivisions because of sex. Colorado Constitution, Article II, §29 (1973)
 

Connecticut - No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law nor be subjected to segregation or discrimination in the exercise or enjoyment of his or her civil or political rights because of religion, race, color, ancestry, national origin or sex. Connecticut Constitution, Article I, §20 (1974)
 

Delaware - Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Delaware Constitution, Article I, §21 (2019)
 

Florida - Basic rights. All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property; except that the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship may be regulated or prohibited by law. No person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or physical disability. Florida Constitution, Article I, §2 (1998)
 

Hawaii - Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State on account of sex. The legislature shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this section. Hawaii Constitution, Article I, §3 (1978)
 

Illinois - The equal protection of the laws shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex by the State or its units of local government and school districts. Illinois Constitution, Article I, §18 (1970)
 

Indiana - The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens. Indiana Constitution, Article 1, §23 (2018)
 

Iowa – All men and women are, by nature, free and equal and have certain inalienable rights—among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness. Iowa Constitution, Article I, §1 (1998)
 

Louisiana - No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. No law shall discriminate against a person because of race or religious ideas, beliefs, or affiliations. No law shall arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably discriminate against a person because of birth, age, sex, culture, physical condition, or political ideas or affiliations. Slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited, except in the latter case as punishment for crime. Louisiana Constitution, Article I, §3 (1975)
 

Maryland – Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex. Maryland Constitution, Declaration of Rights, Article 46 (1972)
 

Massachusetts - All people are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness. Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin. Massachusetts Constitution, Part 1, Article 1 (1976)
 

Montana – Individual dignity. The dignity of the human being is inviolable. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. Neither the state nor any person, firm, corporation, or institution shall discriminate against any person in the exercise of his civil or political rights on account of race, color, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas. Montana Constitution, Article II, §4 (1973)
 

Nebraska - (1) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.[....] (3) Nothing in this section prohibits bona fide qualifications based on sex that are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting. Nebraska Constitution, Article I, §30 (2008)

New Hampshire - [Natural Rights.] All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights - among which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property; and, in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this state on account of race, creed, color, sex or national origin. New Hampshire Constitution, Part First, Article 2 (1974)
 

New Jersey - Wherever in this Constitution the term "person", "persons", "people" or any personal pronoun is used, the same shall be taken to include both sexes. New Jersey Constitution, Article X, paragraph 4 (1947)
 

New Mexico - No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws. Equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person. New Mexico Constitution, Article II, §18 (1973)
 

Oregon - Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex. Oregon Constitution, Article I, §46 (2014)
 

Pennsylvania - Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the sex of the individual. Pennsylvania Constitution, Article I, § 28 (1971)
 

Rhode Island - No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws. No otherwise qualified person shall, solely by reason of race, gender or handicap be subject to discrimination by the state, its agents or any person or entity doing business with the state. Nothing in this section shall be construed to grant or secure any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof. Rhode Island Constitution, Article I, §2 (1986)
 

Texas - Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. This amendment is self-operative. Texas Constitution, Article I, §3a (1972)
 

Utah – The rights of citizens of the State of Utah to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Both male and female citizens of this State shall enjoy all civil, political and religious rights and privileges. Utah Constitution, Article IV, §1 (1896)
 

Virginia - That no person shall be deprived of his life, liberty, or property without due process of law; that the General Assembly shall not pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts; and that the right to be free from any governmental discrimination upon the basis of religious conviction, race, color, sex, or national origin shall not be abridged, except that the mere separation of the sexes shall not be considered discrimination. Virginia Constitution, Article I, §11 (1971)
 

Washington - Equality of rights and responsibility under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Washington Constitution, ARTICLE XXXI, §1 (1972)
 

Wyoming – In their inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all members of the human race are equal. Since equality in the enjoyment of natural and civil rights is only made sure through political equality, the laws of this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex, or any circumstance or condition whatsoever other than the individual incompetency or unworthiness duly ascertained by a court of competent jurisdiction. The rights of citizens of the state of Wyoming to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Both male and female citizens of this state shall equally enjoy all civil, political and religious rights and privileges. Wyoming Constitution, Articles I and VI (1890)

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