The state Senate has killed a proposal to make Louisiana the 38th and final state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a decades-old effort to enshrine in the U.S. Constitution language giving equality to men and women.

State Sen. JP Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, argued his resolution would send a message to young people, especially young women leaving the state, that Louisiana believes “everyone should be treated equally.”

“Today is a vote about equality. Plain and simple,” Morrell said while closing on his resolution. “There will always be a new excuse to not give women equality.”

The resolution, SCR 2, died on a 9-26 vote.

Backers of Equal Rights Amendment make new push in Louisiana; 'It is only a matter of time'

Republican state Sen. Beth Mizell, of Franklinton, was the only other member who spoke about the proposal. She said she believed passing it would lead to courts striking down anti-abortion laws.

“I believe that I have the right to accomplish what I set out for,” Mizell added.

The ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment was a hot topic in the 1970’s. The change would add to the U.S. Constitution the words, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

Governor John Bel Edwards' administration has declined to say whether he backs the measure. 

Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, said in a statement following the vote, "Leading pro-abortion groups have acknowledged that the ERA would codify abortion rights in America, requiring judges to strike down all pro-life state laws. Because of this pro-abortion impact, we opposed the ratification, and applaud the Senate for showing their commitment to protecting life."

“I’m disheartened by my colleagues’ decision to not pass the Equal Rights Amendment through the Senate. Louisiana had the chance to make history, protect women from discrimination, and take an important step toward equality in our state and nation. Unfortunately, we failed,” Karen Carter Peterson, Chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party said in a statement. “Women deserve a future free from discrimination; this isn’t the end of that fight for me and other Louisiana Democrats.”

Nevada approved the amendment in 2017, and Illinois in 2018. Louisiana would be the 38th and final state to ratify it.

More than 150 mostly women supporters of the effort rallied last month at the State Capitol and heard national and state officials say the approval is long overdue. The Legislature has killed previous attempts to ratify the ERA.

Opponents have argued the amendment would lead to lawsuits, including over whether the ERA was enacted properly.

Voting for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (9): Sens. Bishop, Boudreaux, Carter, Colomb, Luneau, Morrell, Peterson, Price, and Tarver.

Voting against SCR2 (26): President Alario, Sens Allain, Appel, Chabert, Claitor, Cortez, Donahue, Erdey, Fannin, Gatti, Hensgens, Hewitt, Johns, Lambert, Long, Martiny, Milkovich, Mills, Mizell, Peacock, Riser, G. Smith, J. Smith, Thompson, Walsworth and White.

Not Voting (4): Sens. , Barrow, LaFleur, Morrish and Ward.


Follow Sam Karlin on Twitter, @samkarlin.