A push for Louisiana to become the final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is on its last legs after the State Senate voted 9-26 today against the amendment.
The 1972 amendment — which has been ratified by 37 of the 38 states needed for it to become part of the United States Constitution — would grant women constitutional protections. It states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, said she would consider voting for the amendment if it had “abortion-neutral language.”
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Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, who sponsored the bill, argued that the ERA predated the abortion debate. In an interview Tuesday, he said that he expected this argument to come up in the Senate floor debate.
“I'm sure they have placeholder people who will make the same arguments, and I look forward to kind of diffusing them one by one,” Morrell said in an interview with Gambit. “Will it ultimately lead to us being successful? No, but I think it serves a purpose of having a debate for the public to see these kind of crazy arguments that have existed for 40 years and no longer have any base society.”
“They’ll see they're still being utilized by lobbyists, by business interests and by politicians who are tone-deaf,” he added.
Morrell made a motion to reconsider the amendment at a later date, and a House version of the bill by Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, is still pending the House Civil Law and Procedure committee.
Louisiana Right to Life (LARTL), who has stated its opposition to the amendment, released a statement following the vote, praising Mizell’s statements on the floor.
"Senator Mizell’s clarifications amidst an often misunderstood issue was essential to defending life today,” LARTL Executive Director Ben Clapper said. “Mizell is a model of a successful pro-life woman leader for Louisiana."
The Louisiana Democratic Party released a statement against the decision.
Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who is the only woman on the nine-person Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, said that the resolution was a chance for Louisiana to make a positive change for women in the state and across the country.
“I’m disheartened by my colleagues’ decision to not pass the [ERA] through the Senate,” said Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who chairs the Louisiana Democratic Party. “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.”
However, women’s rights activists who have worked for decades to pass the ERA say they’re not going to cease their efforts. Camille Moran, director of the Louisiana Coalition for the ERA says this is the farthest the amendment has gotten in the state legislature since the early 1980s.
“We’re not going to stop just because this is the vote,” Moran said. “We’re going to get back to work tomorrow.”