Inclusive equality for the Empire State

By Aryana Goodarzi

Earlier this summer, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision was published, effectively ending a federal right of access to abortion and designating healthcare as a state-related issue. Additionally in the Courts, Justice Clarence Thomas issued a concurring opinion, declaring that the Supreme Court should similarly reverse Obergefell and Lawrence, landmark decisions that established groundbreaking Queer rights.

In light of these alarming developments, the New York Assembly took a first step toward adding an Equal Rights Amendment to the state Constitution when New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the State Legislature into an Extraordinary Session.

In New York, amendments to the state Constitution must pass two consecutive legislative sessions, followed by a voter referendum. While the amendment initially passed on July 1st, the newly elected legislature to be determined by midterm elections this fall must reaffirm the amendment sometime in the new year. After the amendment is reaffirmed, it will go onto the state ballot in November for formal approval. A poll reads that 79% of New Yorkers support the constitutional protection of a more inclusive Equal Rights Amendment, and if passed by voters, New York’s revised Constitution would become codified law sometime later in 2024.

Behind the scenes, both the ERA Project and ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality worked with stakeholders to ensure that New York can implement an inclusive Equal Rights Amendment quickly. The disregard for women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and the many allies of those involved is grossly evident in the Dobbs decision – it shows just how tenuous human rights can be when they are inferred by the judiciary instead of enshrined by the legislature into a constitution, and it is time today to end such arbitrary decisions regarding the necessary rights of all individuals. 

Text of NY state’s inclusive ERA:

§ 11. A. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this state or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color,  ETHNICITY,  NATIONAL  ORIGIN, AGE, DISABILITY, creed [or], religion, OR SEX, INCLUDING  SEXUAL  ORIENTATION,  GENDER  IDENTITY,  GENDER EXPRESSION,  PREGNANCY, PREGNANCY OUTCOMES, AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE AND AUTONOMY, be subjected to any discrimination in [his or  her]  THEIR civil  rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation, or institution, or by the state or any  agency  or  subdivision  of  the  state, PURSUANT TO LAW.

 B. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL INVALIDATE OR PREVENT THE ADOPTION OF ANY LAW, REGULATION, PROGRAM, OR PRACTICE THAT IS DESIGNED TO PREVENT OR DISMANTLE DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF A CHARACTERISTIC LISTED IN THIS SECTION,  NOR  SHALL ANY CHARACTERISTIC LISTED IN THIS SECTION BE INTERPRETED TO INTERFERE WITH, LIMIT, OR DENY THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF ANY  PERSON BASED UPON ANY OTHER CHARACTERISTIC IDENTIFIED IN THIS SECTION.

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