Oregon State Bar Bulletin OCTOBER 2014
Some Questions About Oregon’s ERA
I got curious when I read about the effort to add an Oregon Equal Rights Amendment to the Oregon Constitution (Ballot Measure 89). The proposal reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.” The wording mimics the proposed Amendment crafted in 1972 that would also have applied to the federal government.
I’m not (yet) taking sides, but some basic questions ran through my addled brain fairly quickly: 1) What “rights” does the proposal purport to encompass? 2) If the set of (unknown) “rights” subject to the proposal are already “under the law,” then what does the proposal add to the mix? 3) And doesn’t the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause — applicable to the states — already capture the essence of the proposal?
Barry Adamson, Lake Oswego
Leanne DiLorenzo, chief sponsor of Ballot Measure 89, responds: Measure 89 establishes state policy that protects women from discrimination based on sex, protects women’s rights from rolling backward, and guards women from case law that has an exception for biological differences. It also helps provide momentum for the federal Equal Rights Amendment, which has still not been ratified to the U.S. Constitution in 91 years. Moreover, the 14th Amendment does not protect women against discrimination; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia confirmed as much in 2011 when he said, “Certainly the [U.S.] Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that.” Our same language was in a bill in the last Oregon Legislature and had 51 bipartisan sponsors. Women gained the right to vote using the then-new initiative system, and we are now following the same path. We believe women and girls should have equality in every constitution, as they do in 22 other states with an ERA. With 80 percent support we have of Oregon voters, we hope Measure 89 passes as many around America are watching. I hope it earns your support as well. Learn more at www.voteERA.org.
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