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Still Waiting: Backers of a State ERA for MN Renew Their Push

Supporters of Equal Rights Amendments say they can level the field for women, but can also be helpful for men in a variety of ways, including parental rights. (Mike Moen/PNS)
Supporters of Equal Rights Amendments say they can level the field for women, but can also be helpful for men in a variety of ways, including parental rights. (Mike Moen/PNS)
March 6, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesotans advocating for an Equal Rights Amendment say they're encouraged by progress made at the national level earlier this year -- but that isn't stopping their state-level efforts.

The federal amendment, which would prohibits discrimination based on sex, reached a milestone when Virginia became the last state needed to ratify the proposal. Legal challenges are expected before that amendment becomes final.

Meanwhile, Patty McDonald, webmaster with ERA Minnesota, says state protections are needed too, especially if the national effort falls through.

"I look at it as, you know, what if something happens? I don't know," says McDonald. "It's always good to have your state legally, in our own Constitution, supporting women."

McDonald and her group were at the State Capitol yesterday for their annual rally to get a state amendment adopted. The event is usually scheduled around International Women's Day, which is this weekend.

A bill calling for a state ERA cleared the Minnesota House last year, but remains hung up in the Senate.

Suzann Willhite, vice president of ERA Minnesota, points out that Minnesota was one of the earlier states to endorse the federal amendment. That was in 1973 -- and she says they're still waiting for it to be added.

"Twenty-five other states passed state constitution equality amendments of one kind or another, and Minnesota did not," says Willhite.

State lawmakers who have raised questions about the amendment say because it includes the word "gender," it could open the door to debates -- for instance, about transgender individuals using facilities designated for the opposite sex. They also claim it could be used to expand abortion rights.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN