Equal Rights Amendment: YES
It has been 41 years since Oregon lawmakers ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The idea of making it explicit that a person’s sex should be no barrier to civil freedoms had been around since 1923 but gained strength in the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and ’70s.
It took until 1972 for Congress to send the amendment to states for approval. But the amendment fell three states short of the three-fourths it needed and died amid the growing conservative backlash of the Reagan years.
Since then, state and federal laws have banned virtually all sex discrimination. But chronic inequities—such as difference in pay between men and women—are not problems you solve by amending the U.S. Constitution.
That’s why Measure 89, which would inscribe the provisions of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state constitution, has more nostalgic value than anything else.
Measure 89’s sponsor, Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, makes only a theoretical case that amending the state constitution would clear away lingering legal questions that, as far as we can tell, have had no meaningful consequences.
We kept hearing that many liberal or progressive groups disliked the measure but didn’t have the courage to speak out against it.
The only group that has is the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, which argues the amendment is unnecessary and could undermine rights aimed at prohibiting other kinds of discrimination.
That last argument feels pretty speculative. Instead, consider this measure a long-overdue statement about civil rights and equality that we can send to the courts, and to future Legislatures, governors and generations. On balance, we think it’s better late than never that Oregon enshrines in its constitution a clarity we long ago declared should be the law for all.
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on October 18, 2014 at 1:47 PM, updated October 18, 2014 at 1:48 PM
By Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo
Why is it important to vote yes on Measure 89?
(1) Women are not equal in the Oregon Constitution.
(2) Women are not equal in Oregon case law, as there is an exception for “biological differences.” Current case law exempts discriminatory laws that are “justified” by specific “biological differences” between men and women, and Measure 89 would remove that exemption.
(3) Women are not equal in the United States Constitution.
Measure 89 will establish state policy banning discrimination based on sex. The language of Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution, written in 1857, has not changed. Under it women could not vote, could not serve on juries, most could not own property, and women still do not have equal pay for equal work.
Measure 89 will provide momentum for women’s equality in the U.S. Constitution by engaging all those who are still working on the federal ERA to follow Oregon’s lead. After 91 years the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has still not been added to the U.S. Constitution, even though it has been introduced in Congress every single year since 1923. It passed in Congress once in the ’70s but fell three states short of the deadline for ratification.
The U.S. Constitution still does not adequately protect women. “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t,” said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2011.
Four former Oregon Supreme Court justices took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter in favor of Measure 89 to debunk several arguments made by detractors. Their June 2014 letter is signed by former justices Paul De Muniz, W. Michael Gillette, Richard William Riggs and George Van Hoomissen. It made clear that women do not have the strongest protection in the Oregon Constitution. They said “… no current provision in the Constitution expressly provides those protections … Instead, the protections available to women are present as a result of case law … Measure 89 would remove the biological differences exception.” This is why women would ultimately have full equality.
One opposition group says others’ rights could be affected by passage of an Oregon ERA. The justices stated: “The text of the ERA itself provides that nothing in it will diminish the rights of any group under any provision of the Oregon Constitution. …Oregon’s Office of Legislative Counsel has also issued opinions further supporting that nothing in ERA proposal will diminish the rights of any other group. At least 22 states have adopted equal rights amendments in their constitutions. Not one of the ‘concerns’ voiced by [detractors] has ever come to pass in those states.”
The Justices concluded with another reference to the detractors of the measure: “They are mistaken to oppose passage of the Oregon ERA. We believe that passage of the Oregon ERA will acknowledge the contributions and importance of more than 50% of our citizens by finally providing women express recognition in our state’s most important document, its constitution.”
The women who sought the right to vote needed to resort to the initiative just as we have. On five separate occasions, Oregonian editor Harvey Scott was against women gaining the right to vote even though his sister was Abigail Scott Duniway, the leader of the suffragist movement of the Pacific Northwest and the first woman to vote in Oregon in 1912. But the women prevailed.
Measure 89 has broad bipartisan support. In addition to the four former Oregon Supreme Court justices, supporters include former Court of Appeals Judge David Schuman, former Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer and Oregon Women Lawyers. Supporters come from a long list of organizations, elected officials, community leaders and Oregonians from all over the state, including U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, former Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, former state Sen. Margaret Carter, YWCA, NAACP of Eugene, Oregon Business Association, League of Women Voters, Democratic Party of Oregon, Clackamas County Republican Party, AFSCME and many more.
Please join me in voting “yes” on Measure 89.
Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo is chief petitioner for Measure 89 and founder and president of VoteERA.org.
THU, 03/06/2014 – 5:30PM – 7:00PM
World Affairs of Oregon
Portland, OR 97205
Could an Equal Rights Amendment be the next feather in the cap of Oregon’s tradition of bold global leadership? Daily we read about the violation of women’s rights across the globe: rights to education, freedom from fear, the right to participate fully in the political, economic and cultural life of neighborhood and nation – yet there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that guarantees women the same rights as men. Women in this country still earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes; in The World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap report ranking 134 countries for gender parity the U.S. came in at number 23, behind Burundi (and a point lower than the previous year’s index); and the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that refuses to ratify the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – putting us in the company of Sudan, Somalia, and Iran, three nations known for their human rights violations.
How might VoteERA – which would ratify equal rights of women in the Oregon constitution—make a difference, beyond our backyards? Currently a federal ERA is three states shy of the votes needed to become part of the U.S. Constitution – and could go a long way toward improving our human rights standing in the global community. Could it be that the old dictum to “think globally, act locally” means that a global revolution begins at home? Join us for this reception and an exciting discussion with Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, Founder and President of VoteERA.org in commemoration of International Women’s Day.
Presented in conjunction with the 2014 International Speaker Series – “Women Changing the World.
Link to register to attend: https://app.etapestry.com/cart/WorldAffairsCouncilofOrego/default/category.php?ref=558.0.722211307
Sign E-PETITION to get Oregon’s ERA on the November Ballot!!!
Supporters of an Oregon Equal Rights Amendment for women have started gathering signatures in an effort to qualify the initiative for the November 2014 ballot.
Volunteers have been gathering signatures since the petitions were approved for circulation Dec. 20, and paid signature gatherers are expected to hit the streets starting Monday, said Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, the president of VoteERA.org.
DiLorenzo and her two co-sponsors, Eugene attorney Erin Gould and Nike global marketing director Kerry Godfrey Scroggins, will need to submit 116,284 valid signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.
Three attempts to pass the amendment or refer it to voters during the 2013 legislative session went nowhere, leading the trio to pursue the initiative route.
“Shouldn’t women be explicitly equal in every Constitution?” Littrell DiLorenzo said. “To me, the answer is an absolute ‘Yes, of course.'”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, which opposed earlier versions of the amendment, hasn’t decided yet whether to support the initiative effort, said David Fidanque, the group’s executive director.
“We’re going to take another look at it here in the next few months depending on how the signature gathering goes,” Fidanque said. “I think the way it’s written now, it shouldn’t do any harm, which was our major concern in the spring.”
A national Equal Rights Amendment is needed because the federal government treats sex discrimination differently than racial and other forms of discrimination, he said, but that’s not the case under state law, Fidanque said.
“One of our concerns last spring is that by passing a measure that specifically elevates discrimination based on sex as opposed to our current provision, which protects everyone regardless of what type of discrimination, might somehow change the current interpretation that has been applied by Oregon courts,” he said.
Littrell DiLorenzo says that the ban on sex discrimination in Oregon is based on case law, and she isn’t convinced that the Oregon Constitution provides enough protection against sex discrimination. The same Constitution once prohibited women from voting or owning property, she said.
“Imagine if we took gun rights out of the Constitution and just made it case law,” she said. “The reason an ERA is needed is to provide women the highest level of equal protection possible, so they’re not open to future Supreme Court judges reinterpreting case law or to the winds of political change.”
A February telephone poll of 650 voters indicated that three out of four Oregonians would support the initiative if it reached the ballot, she said.
The campaign to pass a state amendment coincides with a revived national campaign to pass a federal Equal Rights Amendment. That amendment, approved by Congress in 1972, never went into effect because it fell three states short of the minimum 38 states that needed to ratify it.
— Yuxing Zheng