This post is part of our Summer 2016 issue of Connection, our quarterly newsletter. To read the whole newsletter, click here.
Last September, I was invited to join a group called ERANow. It was organized because there is a renewed push coming out of Washington D.C. to pass federal legislation for an Equal Rights Amendment to protect women. I think it’s incredible that in 2016 women are still not expressly protected under the U.S. Constitution. An ERA was first introduced in 1923, shortly after women won the right to vote. In 1972, it finally passed Congress and the state ratification process began. But ultimately that effort fell three states short, with only 35 states, including Delaware, ratifying the amendment.
At one of our meetings, a member suggested that we push for an ERA here in Delaware. But the Delaware Constitution doesn’t have an equal rights or equal protection clause at all, so we couldn’t add sex to it as a protected class. Instead, after various consultations, we decided to go all in and lawyers from Widener University Delaware Law School worked with me, Rich Morse, and Senator Karen Peterson to write an equal protection clause for the Delaware Constitution. Shortly thereafter, Senator Peterson introduced Senate Bill 190.
Adding an Equal Protection Amendment to our state constitution is a powerful moral and legal commitment to the values of equality and fairness. It affirms our belief that all people are created equal. It enshrines the concept of “equality in law for all” and protects against discrimination based on race, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status and national origin. While it is true that there are many federal and state statutes that prevent discrimination in many situations, an amendment is needed to strengthen anti-discrimination law. Statutes can be changed.
In 2014, this is what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said about the ERA: “If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment…I think we have achieved that [protection against discrimination] through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered. So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature — I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”
Please contact your Senator, Representative and Governor Markell and urge them to support SB 190.