The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has had a simple purpose since it was first proposed in Congress in 1923: People should get equal protection under the law no matter their gender.
That’s as uncontroversial as legislation gets, but the ERA has struggled and failed for decades to get ratification nationwide. So legislators in Minnesota are trying (again) to get an amendment on the state’s books. If we can’t have equality all over the United States, we can at least have it here.
The Minnesota House voted on the amendment on Thursday. It passed 72-55.
55 voted against it. There was freakout by the Republicans over the phrase “equality under the law shall not be abridged or denied on account of gender”, and the sticking point was that one word, “gender”. The good news is that it seems to have finally sunk in that there is a difference between sex and gender, so they’ve learned something. They wanted to change that word to “biological sex” or “sex as it appears on one’s birth certificate”. The bad news is that they really, really want to be allowed to discriminate against people for their gender.
They also trotted out the usual, familiar, bogus arguments.
There was also concern about granting rights to trans men and trans women. They could possibly then use facilities that make them more comfortable, or, say, play on the boys’ basketball team if they identify as a boys. Republican Rep. Peggy Bennett worried that allowing trans women to play women’s sports would mean “the end of girls’ and women’s sports as we know it.”
Right. The basketball court must trump the civil rights of all Americans everywhere, in every circumstance.
They also argued that giving women equal rights might mean they have to stop controlling women’s wombs.
Then came abortion — a word that appears nowhere in the amendment. O’Neill argued that the ERA in other states has been used to strike down bans on taxpayer-funded abortions, and proposed that this right should be explicitly left out of the legislation. (Her amendment failed, as did others trying to change the word “gender.”)
At least the 55 regressives lost. Unfortunately, one of those regressives, Jeff Backer, is my representative. I voted as hard as I could against him in the last election, but despite my industrious efforts to mark his opponent as solidly and clearly as I could on the ballot, my vote still was only counted once.