Newsletter, Spring of 2019

Maine moves toward state and federal Equal Rights Amendments

 

An ERA for the Maine Constitution gets traction!

In the Maine State Legislature, LD 433 is a proposal that would add an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Maine, prohibiting sex discrimination. It says:

 

"RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Explicitly Prohibit Discrimination Based on the Sex of an Individual."

 

Sponsor Rep. Lois Reckitt (D), South Portland, has gained bi-partisan support for the bill. The bill is expected to be passed out of the Judiciary Committee to a full vote in the House and Senate where 2/3 majorities are needed to move the proposed amendment to a public referendum in November.  Call your local state Senators and Representatives and ask them to vote YES for LD 433!

Why do we need an Equal Rights Amendment in Maine?

 

Maine is one of the twenty-five states that do not have equal legal rights for women clearly stated in their state constitutions. Maine’s Constitution was written in 1820, when women were thought to be under the protection of men, not needing the same legal rights. The lofty language of equality pertained only to men, specifically, white men. It would be another 100 years before women could even vote.

 

Even though our State Constitution’s gender-biased language was corrected by amendment in 1988, changing ‘he’ to ‘person’, there is no provision to protect against sex discrimination. Today in Maine, sex discrimination cases often wait two years before they are heard by the Governor-appointed Maine Human Rights Commission that can decide how seriously to take the cases. A state ERA will change that.

 

Women's rights need to be clearly included in the Constitution and not subject to ‘interpretation’. 

 

In the U.S., sex discrimination is considered at a lower level of legal scrutiny than discrimination by race and religion. Most people don’t understand that the legal rights of women are only protected by a patchwork of laws that can be changed or repealed.

“While our state and our nation unquestionably have made great progress in effectuating equal rights for women and men, that change has been piecemeal, intermittent and impermanent.”

~ Governor Janet Mills (above) appearing before the Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee on March 7, 2019 to testify in support of a Maine ERA.

In Washington, D.C., the federal ERA revives!

 

Maine is the first state in the 116th Congress whose entire U.S. Congressional delegation is in support of the federal Equal Rights Amendment.  

 

Angus King and Susan Collins are co-sponsors of the federal ERA bill

SJ Res 6 in the U.S. Senate!

 

Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden are co-sponsors of the federal ERA bills HJ Res 35 and HJ Res 38 in the U.S. House of Representatives!

Senators Angus King and Susan Collins are bi-partisan sponsors of the ERA.

 

Next steps:

  • To gain full ratification by the States - only ONE state remains

  • To lift the time limit imposed by the 1972 Congress - this can be accomplished with a majority vote in this Congress, with an issue as contemporaneous as constitutional rights for women.

 

Just ONE more state needed for full ratification!

 

Thirty-five years after the Congressional deadline for the 1972 ERA expired, and in open defiance of that deadline, Nevada (2017) and Illinois (2018) ratified.  Now, just one more state's ratification is needed to reach the full 3/4 majority (38) of the states required for an amendment.  The ERA is back in the news, as young Americans learn what it means and older Americans realize it was never ratified.  

 

 “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”  ~ 1972 Equal Rights Amendment

 

The unratified states are: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.  

Lift the Time Limit

 

ERA bills proposed in this 116th Congress would lift the time limit that was imposed by the 1972 Congress.  A simple majority vote in the U.S. House would effectively bring the ERA ratification back to life.  Court challenges are expected, regarding the time limit and the attempted withdrawal of ratification in the 1970's by five of the ratified states.  The issue is out in the open again. Americans are learning about what has been missing from their Consitution for so long.

 

 

FAQ's

 

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.

 

Is a 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 biased interpretation by the courts? YES.

 

Is the ERA necessary?

If you care about women, many of whom cannot avoid the injustice of lower pay, fewer opportunities and sex discrimination in daily life, YES.

 

Would the ERA encourage abortions?

Legal abortion has not been permitted or denied based on equality between the sexes.  Roe v. Wade was based on the principle of privacy, excluding the government from extremely private decisions of its citizens.  We ALL want fewer abortions performed, but there are better ways to reduce the number of abortions - complete health care, contraception, education - than to deny women their constitutional rights. Should opposition to abortion prevent equality in how the law treats women in every other regard?  NO

 

Would the ERA force us to share bathrooms?

Our culture has changed and single-stall unisex and gender-neutral bathrooms have become common in many public places. Prohibiting sex discrimination in the constitution might make a case for separate and more equal facilities (baby-changing space in male restrooms, for instance) but it is unlikely to influence the commonly-held practice of separate group facilities.

 

Would the ERA force women into the military?

Women now make up 14% of the nation's armed forces. There has not been a draft since 1972.  The Selective Service has had the power to draft any American. It has had the power to draft a group and then select the fittest.  Congress has always had the power to prevent the draft and any part of it. This will probably continue. Women now hold combat positions but they are not always paid 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'?

Twenty percent of 'American families' are headed by a single woman.  The ERA would help those parents, 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. In two-parent families, 62% of mothers and 66% of fathers work outside the home. These families would be better served, women and men, boys and girls, if all members of the family were equally represented by the laws of the land.

What are we doing at Equal Rights Maine? 

  • We are building a network of supporters of the ERA.  Join Us.

  • We are keeping the ERA visible in the Press.

  • We are actively engaged with our legislators, advocating for an ERA.

  • We are holding ERA workshops and film screenings of Equal Means Equal (90 minutes), a powerful 2016 documentary on women’s rights in America, and Legalize Equality (30 minutes), the condensed version.

 

How can you help?

  • Forward this newsletter to your friends, neighbors and legislators.

  • Our Calls to Action will come to you with updates on what you can do.

  • Organize a workshop or talk in your community to discuss the ERA.

  • Stand up, speak up and Join Us.

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