AUGUSTA – State lawmakers are trying to gain momentum for an Equal Rights Amendment to Maine’s state constitution.
The resolution would prohibit discrimination based on the sex of an individual, something those gathered at the Maine State House on Thursday said Maine needs.
Supporters believe this resolution would help protect women in issues such as domestic violence, equal pay, and pregnancy discrimination.
“It is time to make sure our system explicitly offers equal protection and guaranteed rights for all people,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli (D – Arrowsic).
An Equal Rights Amendment was proposed on the federal level in the 1970’s. Maine was one of the states that ratified the federal ERA, though the national effort failed.
Now Maine could join twenty-six other states that have added an Equal Rights Amendment to their state constitution.
“170 countries have explicit language in their constitution regarding women’s equality,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon (D- Freeport). “But guess who’s missing that language? Our own country – the United States, and our state of Maine.”
Something notable about this Equal Rights Amendment is the large amount of cosponsors – more than one hundred. Those co-sponsors stood behind the resolution’s sponsor, who is no stranger to fighting for equal rights.
She testified on behalf of the federal Equal Rights Amendment decades ago.
“Nearly fifty years since I stood here on behalf of equality for the first time, I am here today again,” said Rep. Lois Reckitt (D- South Portland).
Shortly after, Maine’s first female governor Janet Mills testified her support at the resolution’s public hearing.
She said the ERA is needed because current laws against discrimination are too situational.
“Those laws cover discrimination only in specific areas, such as housing, education, credit,” said Governor Mills, calling the current laws, “subject to the will or change at the whim of any particular legislature.”
If the resolution gets support from two thirds of both the senate and the house, it would go to Maine voters for a referendum in November.