Push to rat­ify ERA launched in Utah de­spite op­po­si­tion

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Lind­say White­hurst and Sarah Rankin

SALT LAKE CITY — A re­newed na­tional push to rat­ify the Equal Rights Amend­ment has come to con­ser­va­tive Utah, where sup­port­ers have launched a long-shot bid to be­come the tip­ping point state, de­spite op­po­si­tion from the in­flu­en­tial Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints.

Utah is one of sev­eral con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing states where sup­port­ers hope to make in­roads re­gard­ing the amend­ment that would ex­plic­itly en­shrine equal­ity for women in the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

ERA op­po­nents in Utah turned out with signs and chants at a rally announcing the ef­fort, and lead­ers of the state’s pre­dom­i­nant faith, of­ten known as the Mor­mon church, reaf­firmed its more-than three decades of op­po­si­tion.

Demo­cratic state Rep. Karen Kwan was un­de­terred in her sup­port of the amend­ment. She’s aim­ing to con­vince her GOP col­leagues in the Leg­is­la­ture by point­ing to an 1895 amend­ment to the state con­sti­tu­tion that guar­an­tees equal “civil, po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious rights.”

Kwan is spon­sor­ing a bill for the 2020 leg­isla­tive ses­sion that she hopes will make Utah the 38th state to rat­ify the ERA. That’s a key num­ber that would meet the con­sti­tu­tional thresh­old for ap­proval if other chal­lenges can be over­come.

Vir­ginia, how­ever, could get there first af­ter Democrats won con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture this year for the first time in a gen­er­a­tion.

In ad­di­tion, sup­port­ers are weigh­ing new pitches in states such as Ge­or­gia, North Carolina, Ari­zona and Florida, said Carol Jenk­ins, co-pres­i­dent and CEO of the na­tion­wide ERA Coali­tion.

How­ever, even if more states join the ef­fort, chal­lenges would re­main for the ERA, in­clud­ing a 1982 rat­i­fi­ca­tion dead­line pre­vi­ously set by Congress and a move by five states to with­draw sup­port.

In Utah, Kwan said that rat­i­fi­ca­tion would be worth­while, even if the state isn’t No. 38.

“It’s about send­ing that mes­sage of love and re­spect (about) how much we value our women,” Kwan said fol­low­ing a launch event that drew 200 sup­port­ers.

About 40 peo­ple came out to protest the launch, say­ing the ERA lan­guage is too broad and could erode pro­tec­tions for women and girls such as work­place ac­com­mo­da­tions dur­ing preg­nan­cies.

Art stu­dent Amanda Fisher, 23, said she’s wor­ried it could re­sult in fewer re­stric­tions on abor­tions.

“It kind of seems to be a cover to re­ally make it hard to pro­tect un­born chil­dren,” she said.

ERA sup­port­ers say it isn’t about abor­tion, and laws that pro­tect women aren’t un­der threat. They point out that Utah’s own equal rights clause didn’t pre­vent the state from pass­ing new abor­tion re­stric­tions this year.

The op­po­si­tion from The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints, mean­while, could prove for­mi­da­ble since the vast ma­jor­ity of Utah law­mak­ers are mem­bers. The faith said decades ago that the ERA could erode family values, and its mem­bers worked against the amend­ment in states such as Vir­ginia, Florida and Mis­souri.


Sup­port­ers of the Equal Rights Amend­ment rally re­cently at the Utah State Capi­tol.

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