Some good news, kinda, from the upper midwest

The Minnesota house passed the ERA.

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.


  1. sqlrob says

    I’m surprised they didn’t back this on account of abortion. ERA could cleverly be used to ban abortion with the right argument. One I would hope wouldn’t fly, but one I can definitely see the right trying.

    “Women can have exactly the number of abortions men have”

  2. Derek Vandivere says

    #2 / Colin:

    It should be the same, I think. Congress and the Senate passed it back in 1972 and passed it to the States for ratification, so I assume the text would be the same. Not enough states ratified it within the time limit, though, so the ERA’s technically dead. There are other efforts to get it moving again, but I don’t quite grok all the bits. More info here:

    However, I see that PZ uses the word ‘gender’ (well, the article it quotes). It looks to me like the original amendment used the word ‘sex,’ so I’m not sure if the article was wrong, if legislators talked about the difference, or if they passed a different version.

  3. drew says

    About time, MN! Congratulations. But really it’s about time.

    @sqlrob IANAL but there are already some state precedents for treating abortion with the same protections as any other medical procedure. And the PZ-linked article says that, too – the business about striking down bans.

    @colinday It’s an amendment to the US Constitution.

    Here’s more context about the ERA:
    It’s the neutered version that still allows us to treat children as property but maybe in another generation we’ll see them as having the same rights as us other apes.

  4. colinday says

    @ Derek Vandivere

    Yes, the original had “sex” instead of “gender”. While the amendment would have to be re-passed in Congress, it would be nice to have 3/4 of the states use the same wording.

  5. colinday says

    @ drew

    It was an attempted amendment. It failed to be ratified within the allotted time.

  6. robro says

    If I understand correctly, this is a state Equal Rights Amendment, not the one proposed for the US Constitution. Minnesota approved the Constitution ERA in 1973. According to some news stories, the vote puts the subject of the state amendment on the next ballot. Doing that passed in the Minnesota House, but there are other hurdles to come.

  7. Rich Woods says

    @sqlrob #1:

    “Women can have exactly the number of abortions men have”

    I expect that could be countered with something along the lines of “Men can have exactly the same number of operations to treat testicular cancer as women can have.”

  8. Becca Stareyes says

    “Women can have exactly the number of abortions men have”

    I can counter that by being one of those intersectional feminists your mama warned you about and saying ‘and transmen (who are men) and everyone else with a uterus also have a right to an abortion, so it is equal by gender: if you have a uterus, you can control what is inside it’.

  9. says

    While I would have voted for the federal ERA if given a chance, I think it is a blessing in disguise that it didn’t pass and I have zero interest in reviving it. By text it is wholly redundant on the 14th amendment; it is only the idiotic, and conservative, notion that “person” means something much different when discussing race, sex, or sexual orientation per constitutional jurisprudence splitting each into different levels of review. By passing the ERA liberals would have more or less a conceded what ‘person’ means is less strong if discussing sex. It would have opened the flood gates to having to add ERA for every class of people and inevitably one would have been left out. Moreover, until a sexual orientation ERA (for example) was passed you are just daring conservative judges to apply the lowest level of review to LGB cases. Gay marriage bans probably do pass that level of review at the S. Court given the then current make up of the court.

    If we have to muck about the 14th amendment it would be far better to pass something with the text of “all challenges of the 14th and 5th amendment guarantees due process and equal protect must pass strict scrutiny as defined by case law.” Passing the ERA would have helped women. It would have fucked over a whole bunch of other types of minorities. Liberals are so bad at seeing how legal precedents can be twisted in bad faith ways. It is a reason we are stuck with Trump.