After the second legislative session, the New York State Equal Rights Amendment 2024 is scheduled to be presented to voters

Governor Hochul signs abortion rights bill (Photo: Governor’s Office)

Fall 2024 voters have the opportunity to enshrine civil rights protections for women, LGBTQ people and access to abortion into the state constitution after lawmakers passed New York State’s Equality Amendment Tuesday for the second time .

If approved by voters, the state constitution will for the first time prohibit discrimination based on race, national origin, disability and sex, “including pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, sexual orientation, gender expression.” The amendment’s sponsors say these protections include reproductive rights, which would add New York to the minority of states that include access to abortion in their highest government documents.

Although that final step has yet to be taken, victory for women’s and LGBTQ advocates comes just after the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade of the Supreme Court and 100 years after Congress first introduced the Equality Amendment for Women into the US Constitution. which has never been ratified

New York is among a growing number of states that have adopted an ERA in recent years. The amendment drew renewed interest last year after the US Supreme Court struck down Roe and made abortion a top issue in state and federal elections across the country. The court’s conservative majority opinion has also raised concerns that the panel may be open to reconsidering other established rights, including marriage equality and obtaining contraceptives. Twenty-Two States have adopted some form of ERA, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, double the number in 2019.

The amendment would go beyond the federal non-discrimination clause by protecting against acts that have a discriminatory effect, regardless of intent, “and thereby provide a critical legal tool to dismantle acts that actually perpetuate inequality and/or create inequality.” according to a memo from State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and patron of the resolution. The amendment would be “self-executing,” meaning no further executive legislation would be needed to enforce it if approved by voters this fall. That was a point of contention in previous iterations of the resolution and one of the reasons why the State Senate and State Assembly could not agree on an ERA before 2022.

“On what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Calf, The Senate majority is making good on a promise to pass the Equal Rights Amendment for a second time to ensure New Yorkers have the opportunity to codify abortion into our state constitution and give women, LGBTQI+ people and many more New Yorkers equal protections from discrimination grant,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first woman and first black person to head the chamber, in a statement.

“We will remain focused on protecting our reproductive rights and increasing protections for our abortion providers while expanding access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services,” Stewart-Cousins ​​added.

The resolution is part of a reproductive rights package to pass in the Senate that includes a grant fund for access to abortion called the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program. With the exception of the ERA, the bills in the package have either yet to go to assembly or remain in committee.

“Today we passed for the second time the Equality Amendment, which, if approved by the people, will enshrine expanded protections for the civil rights of New Yorkers in our Constitution and ensure that no one will be denied the opportunity to fully participate in society share the basis of their identity,” said House Speaker Carl Heastie in a statement.

“Women have waited far too long to be included in our state constitution,” Senator Krueger said in a statement, “but so have LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, Latinos and anyone who has faced discrimination based on characteristics beyond their control.” lie .”

Assembly member Rebecca Seawright, another Manhattan Democrat and the main sponsor of the resolution in her chamber, echoed this view. “We are closer than ever to enshrining women’s suffrage and protections from discrimination in our state’s most important government document,” she said in a statement to the Gotham Gazette.

“While New York has strong antidiscrimination laws, our state constitution falls short when it comes to ensuring equal rights,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), said in a statement to the Gotham Gazette. “Next November, New Yorkers can demand the permanent protection of a constitutional amendment that bans discrimination against groups that have been targeted in the past.”

The fervor that erupted last year to overturn Roe and other conservative Supreme Court rulings prompted the Democratic supermajorities of the legislature to move quickly to reach agreement on its provisions in the final days of the legislature.

Amendments to the state constitution must be passed in two consecutive legislatures and then approved by voters in a referendum. Tuesday’s vote marks the second round of the ERA. New Yorkers voting in the fall of 2024 can vote for or against ERA.

Democrats have had a mixed record on election issues in recent years, with the passing of recent environmental protection measures but the failure of high-profile electoral and redistribution changes. Lawmakers are expected to put the question on the ballot in the fall of 2024 to avoid leaving the fate of the ERA up to voters in the elections outside of 2023, which will see few races on the ballot that Voter turnout will be lower and approval less certain.

2024 will be a year of high presidential turnout, with many other races up for election.

“We will not only enshrine these rights in law but in the New York State Constitution with ERA, and we will do it again,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a press conference organized by Planned Parenthood in Albany’s Legislative Office Building ahead of the vote on Tuesday. “We’re not going to finish until we get that across the finish line. We will not stop.”

Hochul, the first woman governor of New York, included passing the ERA on her state of the state agenda this year, along with other protections for people seeking abortions. These include protecting personal information for abortion seekers, allowing pharmacists to prescribe abortion drugs and contraceptives, and allowing SUNY and CUNY health centers to perform medical abortions.

“Here in New York, we will continue to take bold action to protect the rights of New Yorkers, and I applaud the New York State Legislature for taking another critical step toward enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment into the state constitution.” , the governor said in a statement following the resolution passed on Tuesday. “Last year I was proud to call an extraordinary session of the Legislature that resulted in the first passage of this historic amendment, and I am grateful that the amendment is on track to be put before voters next year.”