An amendment to enshrine equal rights and abortion protections into the Minnesota Constitution got one step closer to landing on the ballot after the House voted Sunday to put the issue to voters in 2026.

The expansive Equal Rights Amendment passed out of the chamber on a 68-62 vote early Sunday morning after more than a dozen hours of debate that took place over the span of several days. But the Senate didn't take up the bill before a midnight deadline.

The proposal would ask Minnesotans if the state's Constitution should be amended to guarantee equal rights regardless of "race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, or sex, including pregnancy, gender, and sexual orientation."

Supporters said constitutional protections are needed to prevent future legislative action or court rulings that could strip away rights, including abortion access.

"We must codify protections into the Constitution now," said Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St Paul, the sponsor of the measure. "Case law and statutes are subject to political whims and the political leanings of judges."

The amendment could set off an expensive statewide campaign similar to abortion-related referendum battles in other states since the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Republicans, along with anti-abortion and religious groups, have tried to stop the amendment from going on the ballot, arguing it leaves off protections for people based on their age, religion and other factors while shrouding the intent to protect abortion rights under language about pregnancy.

"All of us have the same God-given rights, and the state needs to treat us all that way, not based on our membership in a certain group," said Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey.

Lawmakers in recent days have debated more than a dozen proposed changes to the amendment, including adding religion as a protected class to the bill. Democrats rejected the amendments, arguing religion already has higher-level protections in the state Constitution.

"We are extending civil rights to all Minnesotans," said Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul, a co-sponsor of the ballot initiative. "The Minnesota Constitution protects the rights of people of faith as great or greater than any state in the U.S."

Minnesota's proposal is an expanded version of an equal rights amendment based on gender that has been debated at the Capitol for decades. The amendment's fate is unclear in the Senate, which passed a different version of the Equal Rights Amendment last year. Senate leaders have not said whether they have the votes to pass the House version of the bill.

"Until we know what is coming to us, we haven't committed our votes," Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said Friday morning before the House started debating the bill. "We've had very, very many discussions about the importance of what I think is a new and modern ERA, one that reflects our values, our freedoms and what it means to be a Minnesotan."

There's pressure on Democrats to act this year while they have full control of the Legislature. Constitutional amendments must past both chambers in order to get on the ballot, but they don't require the governor's signature. Legislators have until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to pass bills.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 decision reversing Roe, voters in six states have weighed in on constitutional amendments regarding abortion, with abortion rights groups prevailing in every state. This fall, more than a dozen states may have abortion-related measures on the ballot.

"I can't wait to get out of this building and tell Minnesotans about what this does, because they are going to be just as disgusted and flabbergasted as I am," said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch.

The House supported waiting until 2026 to put the amendment on the ballot to give groups enough time to campaign on the issue. Both sides are already gearing up for a campaign that could cost millions trying to persuade voters.

As debate wrapped up on the bill Sunday morning, DFL House Majority Leader Jamie Long said Minnesota lawmakers protected abortion rights in law last session, and voters should be asked if they want constitutional protections.

"Minnesotans have looked on with shock at what's playing out state-after-state as they strip away women's rights," he said. "The Supreme Court wanted this to be a state decision, well let's allow Minnesotans to make this decision once and for all."