Oregon Enshrines Gender Equality in its Constitution

The Wall Street Journal

A ballot measure seeking to add explicit gender equality to Oregon’s constitution passed comfortably Tuesday, with roughly two-thirds of the state’s voters supporting the measure, known as the Equal Rights Amendment. Oregon becomes the 23rd state to provide a guarantee of gender equality in its constitution.

The Oregon ERA, Measure 89, was opposed by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the amendment was unnecessary because the state’s constitution already provides for equality under the law for all citizens.

On Wednesday, Becky Straus, legislative director for the ACLU of Oregon, reiterated in a statement that the organization viewed the amendment “as duplicative of protections already provided for in the state constitution.” But, she said, the ACLU supports the “value of equal rights regardless of sex,” and will “work to achieve full, lived equality for women, and every other marginalized group, in our state.”

The ACLU of Oregon has said it supports a federal ERA, which would apply to all states. A decades-long effort to add the ERA to the U.S. Constitution came close to passing in the 1970s but fell just short of ratification.

Earlier this year, a national alliance of women’s rights groups, celebrities, politicians and other prominent advocates gathered to campaign anew for a federal amendment. The group, the ERA Coalition, applauded Oregon’s amendment Wednesday, suggesting it might boost the national movement.

“We think women in all states should benefit from constitutional protection,” ERA Coalition President Jessica Neuwirth said in a statement Wednesday, “and we hope a federal ERA will soon follow to that end.”

Oregon ERA champion Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo largely financed the signature-gathering campaign to get Measure 89 on the ballot after her efforts to lobby the state Legislature to pass the amendment last year were unsuccessful. In a brief email early Wednesday morning, Ms. DiLorenzo wrote: “Thank God!”

Photo credit:  Andie Petkus