Snow covers the park in front of the State House in Augusta on Wednesday Dec. 29, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s Senate voted Wednesday to advance a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would prohibit discrimination based on gender, although it will require further votes.

The 22-12 vote keeps the proposal moving but fell short of a two-thirds majority that will be required to send the amendment to voters for ratification. The initial House vote also failed to reach a two-thirds majority.

All Senate Democrats and one Republican, Kim Rosen, of Bucksport, were in favor of the amendment. All other Republicans voted against it.

Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, said the amendment will make clear that discrimination in employment, insurance and education “shall not be tolerated.”

“It is the most basic and necessary acknowledgment that women have the right to exist in our society with the same independence, rights and dignity of men. It’s an acknowledgment that we are all fully human in the eyes of the law, regardless of gender,” she said.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said fairness and equality are “Maine values” that should enshrined on the constitution.

“To me, it seems to only make sense that we would want our constitution to reflect our values, especially on something as important as this. The fact that we even had to debate this issue in the Senate Chamber makes it abundantly clear that this amendment is sorely needed,” he said.

The proposal’s sponsor, Rep. Lois Reckitt, D-South Portland, has been advocating for a state equal rights amendment for five decades.

Previous bills she sponsored in 2017 and 2019 failed by six and two votes, respectively, in the Maine House. In 2019, the Maine Senate gave the necessary two-thirds majority.