Nevadans just passed the most comprehensive Equal Rights Amendment in the nation, with 58% of voters saying "Yes" to "adding language to the Nevada Constitution that prohibits the denial or abridgment of rights on account of an individual's race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin." This makes Nevada the 27th state in the nation to do so.
Yet an Associated Press report says the effort is mostly symbolic? ("Nevada passes sweeping version of Equal Rights Amendment," Nov. 10.)
Not that we at ERA Minnesota have anything against symbols. The flag is a symbol that people have fought and died for; the cross is a symbol that many worship; the ring on one's fourth left finger symbolizes lifelong commitment. And the ERA symbolizes equality for all. And it protects against discrimination on the basis of sex and gender.
But it goes deeper than that. The 2022 election results across the country and in Minnesota show that the majority of voters support democracy, freedom and inclusive legal rights for all people.
Just look at the multiple states that proposed, voted and passed amendments to their state constitutions to protect reproductive freedom: Vermont by 76%, Michigan 58% and California by 65%. Kentucky and Montana voters rejected amendments that would have allowed restrictions to abortion. Earlier this year, Kansas voters also overwhelmingly rejected ending abortion protections.
All of these votes show that a clear majority of voters in the United States believe in the inalienable right to everyone's bodily autonomy.
Here in Minnesota, voters have elected candidates who support equal rights for all people. With a more diverse representation in our Minnesota Senate, House and governor's office, we can see a clear path for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to be added to our state Constitution.
Most women did not get the right to vote until after a 100-year fight for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 2023 is the 100th anniversary of the ERA's first introduction in Congress and people in Minnesota are appalled that we must still fight to get equal legal rights into our state Constitution via the ERA. How unexceptional of us that we are among a minority of states that still lack legal equality for all people in our founding state document.
Our time has come. ERA Minnesota will be ready on the first day of the 2023 session on Jan. 3 with a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol called #Day1forERA, to fight to secure the equal legal right to prohibit discrimination for all people.
All are welcome to join us. Let our leaders hear from you. Tell your legislators to allow Minnesotans to vote for equality now.
Suzann Willhite is president of ERA Minnesota (www.eramn.org).