Updated Sept. 11, 2023
The state legislature took the first step in passing an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) last month that would safeguard the rights of millions of New Yorkers. The legislature passed the bill shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, threatening abortion as a right and paving the way to unravel other fundamental protections.
Importantly, the passage of this legislation isn’t just a win for gender justice and reproductive rights. It’s a victory for LGBTQ, immigrant, and disability rights and for everyone who truly believes in equality. The legislature’s action sets in motion a process that – if successful – will enshrine the equal rights amendment in our state constitution.
Here’s what you need to know about the ERA and what comes next.
What would the ERA do?
Currently, our state constitution only protects against racial and religious discrimination. The ERA would prohibit discrimination by the government based on a person’s ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, and sex — including their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes. It would also protect against any government actions that would curtail a person’s reproductive autonomy or their access to reproductive health care.
How do we add the ERA to the state constitution?
The state legislature must pass the ERA again in the next legislative session – legislative sessions last two years and the next session begins in January of 2023. Then, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to vote on the Amendment in 2024. If voters approve it, the ERA gets added to our constitution and millions of New Yorkers gain new protections against discrimination.
Aren’t these protections already covered in our constitution?
Unfortunately, no. Our New York State Constitution currently fails to clearly prohibit discrimination against groups that have been historically targeted, including those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants, women, and pregnant people.
Why is it important to have an ERA in New York?
It is critical that New York’s foundational legal document protects rights that are under attack from the Supreme Court and many state governments. And, as an abortion access state, New York must move to protect New Yorkers, as well as the thousands of people who will travel here for care.
But again, this isn’t just about abortion access. It is critical that New York protect pregnancy and all pregnancy outcomes too. Increasingly across the country and in New York, women face criminal and civil consequences for their pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth. The ERA rightfully covers pregnancy outcomes to help protect people from punishment and prosecution.
Make sure you and your community are aware and informed on this issue. Share this piece or the NYCLU’s graphics to make sure everyone knows why New York needs an Equal Rights Amendment!