January 2020 Update
Maine State ERA
On May 23rd, 2019 the Maine State Senate passed LD 433 with a resounding 2/3 majority! Key Republican Senators joined their Democratic colleagues to overcome years of delay in enacting this amendment. The greatest challenge lies ahead, in the second House vote, expected very soon. The first vote in the House, on May 14th, 2019 passed the measure by a simple majority, but short of the required 2/3 majority. Every House Republican voted against it. The bill was 'held over' to the 2020 session. There will be a second vote in the House this winter. We need every Democrat and 9 Republicans to gain the votes needed to pass the ERA Resolution to the voters to decide, in a Referendum vote.
LD433 is a “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Explicitly Prohibit Discrimination Based on the Sex of an Individual.”
CALL your Republican Representative and ask for a YES vote on LD 433.
A little background: A hearing before the Judiciary Committee was held on March 7, 2019 before a standing-room crowd. The testimonies of many supporters, including sponsoring Legislators and the public as well as a small number in opposition, can be heard here.
On April 9, 2019, LD 433 was voted out of committee by a favorable 9-2. Next stop: the full Legislature. A constitutional amendment must have 2/3 majorities in the House and Senate to proceed to a vote before the people of Maine in a referendum at the next election. This is the best chance Maine has seen to amend its constitution with provisions to give legal equality to women and protection against sex discrimination to all. The issue hangs in the balance. The vote in the House is expected to be particularly close. Every legislator's vote is critical to get to the 2/3 majority.
We have summarized some major points made by the opposition as Concerns with corresponding Responses.
In support of an Equal Rights Amendment to Maine’s Constitution
LD 433 is a state constitutional amendment to explicitly prohibit sex discrimination. A YES vote from 2/3 of the House and Senate will send the amendment to the people of Maine in a state-wide referendum. Let Mainers decide about equal rights for ALL in the polling booth.
Concern: LD 433 is unnecessary - men and women are already treated equally under the law.
Response: Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution or the Maine Constitution is sex discrimination prohibited. The laws written to protect against sex discrimination do not have the legal foundation to be as effective as they could be. Laws can be weakened and repealed by legislative action. Basic equal rights need constitutional protection.
Concern: The 14th Amendment already addresses sex discrimination.
Response: The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment (1868) addressed the rights of recentlyfreed male slaves. It was first used in sex discrimination cases in the 1970’s, with limited success. Because the Supreme Court uses a different legal standard in sex discrimination cases, it is much more difficult to prove sex discrimination than other forms of discrimination. An amendment to the Maine Constitution would consider sex discrimination with the same seriousness as discrimination by race, religion and national origin.
Concern: LD 433 would require unisex bathrooms.
Response: Our culture has changed and unisex and single-stall, 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.
Concern: LD 433 would have unintended consequences making abortion easier to obtain.
Response: Abortion has been legal since 1973, though many states have greatly restricted access to abortion through state law, including states with ERAs in their state constitutions. The legality of abortion was never based on reasons of equality, but rather on the idea of privacy from government intrusion. Abortion rates have fallen dramatically since the 1990’s as contraceptives have improved and became more readily available, along with sex education. We can continue to reduce the abortion rate without forfeiting the full equal rights of women and men, including the constitutional protection against sex discrimination.
Concern: LD 433 would force the state to pay for poor women’s abortions with public funds.
Response: Publicly-funded abortions have been highly restricted by the federal Hyde Amendment since 1977. However, 15 states do provide abortion through their own budgets. States with state ERAs that do not fund abortions to low-income women outnumber states with ERAs that do fund abortions. The statistics do not show a correlation between state ERAs and the state funding of abortions.
The 116th Congress now has several ERA Resolutions proposed:
U.S. House of Representatives:
HJ Res 35 is a Resolution to start with a new Equal Rights Amendment. Co-sponsors Rep. Tom Reed (R) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D). Maine's Representative Golden has signed on as an additional co-sponsor!
HJ Res 38 is a Resolution that would remove the time limit for ratification of the ERA by the States. Co-sponsors Rep. Tom Reed (R) and Rep. Jackie Speiers (D). Maine's Representatives Pingree and Golden have signed on as additional co-sponsors!
S.J. Res 6 is a Resolution that would remove the time limit for ratification of the ERA by the States. Original Co-sponsors, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D) are only accepting additional co-sponsors to sign on in pairs, Noah's Ark style, with a Democrat (or Independent) and a Republican together. Maine's Senators Collins and King are the first pair to have added their names as co-sponsors of this bill, making us proud to be Mainers! ERA supporters in states with Republican Senators must ask their Senators to pair up with a Democrat and sign onto this Bill. Bills must have an impressive list of co-sponsors to proceed!
We will be reporting on further developments on this website. Stay tuned.