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New York Equal Rights Amendment Off the Ballot

New York’s ERA was about much more than equality.

By:  |  June 20, 2024  |    796 Words
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(Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Equal Rights Amendment has been removed as a ballot initiative for the November elections in New York. The proposed change to the state’s constitution easily and quickly passed through the legislature in response to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. But according to the judge who struck it down, the speed with which the amendment was approved is the problem. The process was rushed, making the ballot initiative unconstitutional.

“They put forth this amendment to the constitution. There was no open debate. There was no public hearings, there was nothing,” explained Bobbie Anne Cox, the attorney who sued the legislature to stop the referendum. “They referred it to the AG that day, but then they voted that same day. They didn’t even wait one day,” Cox added.

The New York Constitution requires that a proposed amendment must be presented to the attorney general to determine that it isn’t in conflict with other parts of the constitution, and the AG has 20 days to respond. New York Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. Doyle declared the amendment null and void because the Democrats didn’t give the attorney general the required time – or, really, any time at all.

Equal Rights or Progressive Ideology?

news and current events bannerOpponents and supporters alike recognize that this Equal Rights Amendment would enshrine in the New York Constitution a legal right to abort. But that isn’t all that had some people concerned about this ERA. Some fear it threatens parental rights, as it would guarantee “gender-affirming” care for kids, including gender reassignment surgery or puberty blockers, without need for parental consent. Some also argued that it would require sports programs to allow biological males who identify as female to compete against girls and women.

The amendment would have modified the New York State Constitution Article 1, Section 11. The text of the proposed amendment reads:

“1. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this state or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability creed, or religion, or sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy, be subjected to any discrimination in their civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation, or institution, or by the state or any agency or subdivision of the state pursuant to law.

 

“2. Nothing in this section shall invalidate or prevent the adoption of any law, regulation, program, or practice that is designed to prevent or dismantle discrimination on the basis of a characteristic listed in this section, nor shall any characteristic listed in this section be interpreted to interfere with, limit, or deny the civil rights of any person based upon any other characteristic identified in this section.”

Many states have equal rights amendments – but a look at some of them shows that not all ERAs are created equal.

What’s in a Name?

“False equivalence is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone incorrectly asserts that two or more things are equivalent, simply because they share some characteristics, despite the fact that there are also notable differences between them,” wrote Dr. Itamar Shatz of the University of Cambridge Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. The simple example he gave after that explanation paints a good picture: “For example, a false equivalence is saying that cats and dogs are the same animal, since they’re both mammals and have a tail.”

Sometimes, however, one must dig a little deeper to find the false equivalence. In this case, the shared characteristic is the name. Many states have equal rights amendments – and have had them for many years. However, while the wording is always a little different from state to state, most ERAs are quite different from the New York proposal.

Florida’s 1998 amendment reads:

“All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property. No person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or physical disability.”

“Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. This amendment is self-operative,” reads the 1972 ERA of Texas. Montana has, since 1973, protected people from discrimination based on “race, color, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas.”

Notice how none of these equal rights amendments constitutionally protect abortion or declare it a crime to insist there are only two genders? These cats and dogs may all be mammals, but they’re far from the same animal.

 

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