RENO, Nev. (AP) – Nevada voters on Tuesday will decide whether to accept or reject what is considered the state’s most comprehensive version of the Equal Rights Amendment, a comprehensive overhaul that would introduce protections for people who have historically been marginalized. . Constitution of the state.
Nevada’s ERA would amend the state Constitution to ensure equal rights for all “without regard to race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, sexual identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.” It’s a broader amendment than the federal ERA, which Nevada passed in 2017, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, although efforts to enshrine it in the U.S. Constitution remain in limbo.
Proponents of Nevada’s ERA say it will provide new tools to fight discrimination and close loopholes where rights aren’t necessarily guaranteed. Nevada state Sen. Pat Spearman, one of the sponsors, cited age protections for older workers during the pandemic and transgender people, whose identities are protected under the amendment, as real differences. Other proponents said enshrining ERA protections in the Nevada Constitution would carry more weight and repealing it would be tougher than if they were in state law or added to existing state and federal protections.
“(The laws) could be eliminated or reduced,” said Kate Kelly, an author and activist who has traveled the country promoting both federal and state ERAs. “And we’ve seen that in the very recent past — legal protections that we thought would be eliminated forever.”
The main concerns of groups opposing the ERA were the protection of gender identity and expression, as well as ageism. Several have said expanding same-sex marriage rights could infringe on their religious freedom. Several groups did not want transgender people to use the bathroom or compete in sports that correspond to their gender identity.
Janine Hansen, who leads the anti-Question 1 movement, said gender identity protections could force her church in Elko County to perform same-sex marriages against the wishes of religious leaders.
“They have the right to marry,” he said. “But they want to force me and my church to let them marry.”
Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College, said the Equal Rights Amendment does not bar churches from First Amendment rights as long as they are their long-held beliefs and practices.
Although it shares its name, Nevada’s proposal differs from decades of efforts to enact the federal ERA, which has yet to take effect.
As of 2020, versions of the federal amendment have been adopted by 38 states, which have passed the minimum at the federal level. However, this came decades after Congressional approval expired after its enactment in 1972, and five states—Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota—moved to rescind their earlier approvals. This means that states can support it separately even though it is not enshrined in the US Constitution.
Nevada could become the 27th state to adopt its own version of the ERA. Some states have broader coverage than the federal ERA, while others protect against specific situations of gender discrimination.
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