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Susan Snider of Brooklin is a longtime advocate of both a state and federal equal rights amendment.
Race. Color. Religion. Sex. Sexual orientation. Gender identity. Gender expression. Age. Physical or mental disability. Ancestry or national origin of an individual.
These are all basic human rights that Mainers expect to be protected here in our state. But they are not under the Maine Constitution.
LD 1412, an equal rights amendment, seeks to remedy this glaring omission in Maine’s fundamental governing document.
Introduced by Rep. Lois Reckitt, D-South Portland, the amendment has been expanded this year to be more inclusive of individuals as well as categories of rights historically marginalized and discriminated against, such as race, religion, sex, gender, age, ancestry or national origin, and disabilities.
The sponsors of the equal rights amendment listened to Mainers over the past several years and subsequently proposed LD 1412, a revised, more comprehensive amendment. This wide-ranging equal rights amendment will provide new and stronger legal protections to challenge discrimination and omissions in our state Constitution where these rights are not necessarily guaranteed.
It is important to note that the U.S. Constitution does not include an equal rights amendment. This in spite of the fact that nearly three-quarters of Americans support such an amendment.
Yet some members in both the state House and Senate have repeatedly stonewalled attempts in the past three legislative sessions to pass an equal rights amendment on to Maine voters for their rightful consideration to vote either in favor of — or against — equal rights for all. By voting against an equal rights amendment, these legislators are censoring the voice of their constituents and, by extension, all Mainers.
Because constitutional amendments may only be introduced by state legislators — and not through the citizen initiative process — Mainers are continuously denied their constitutional right by a minority of legislators to decide if our basic human rights should be legally protected.
A required two-thirds majority vote in favor of LD 1412 by our state legislators would simply allow the proposed equal rights amendment to finally go before voters.
I say to the Maine Legislature at large: It is time that Maine voters be allowed to decide if we want, codified in our state Constitution, undeniable protections based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender orientation, age, physical or mental disability, and ancestry or national origin.
How can any Maine legislator deny their constituents any — or all — of these rights?
Moreover, should our state legislators be the final arbiters to decide on an amendment guaranteeing equal rights for all Mainers under the law? I think not. This is not democracy in action.
To our state legislators I say: Stop denying Mainers our constitutional right to decide if we want equality of rights in our state. Let Mainers finally speak. Let our voices be heard.
It is time for Mainers to vote on an equal rights amendment for all in our state.