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Utahns kick off 2020 legislative session with rally for Equal Rights Amendment

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Utahns kick off 2020 legislative session with rally for Equal Rights Amendment (Photo: KUTV)

Monday was the first day of Utah’s 2020 General Legislative Session. Dozens of people showed up on the steps of the capitol to show support for the proposed federal Equal Rights Amendment.

Many said now is the time to pass this decades-old bill.

The ERA is a a proposed amendment to the constitution that would make men and women equal in the eyes of federal law.

  • "Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
  • Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  • Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification."

At Monday’s rally at the capitol, Utah Representative Karen Kwan introduced a bill to ratify the federal equal rights amendment in Utah.

"We've been working for 97 years o have the Equal Rights Amendment Ratified. Alice Paul wrote it in 1923, and it's time to finish what we started,” said Kelly Whitedjones, Utah ERA Coalition Co-Chair.

If ratified, the ERA moves gender from “intermediate scrutiny” to “strict scrutiny” in the law.

That means when a federal judge sits down to try a case, they would be held to a higher standard of gender equality, the same as religion, national origin, and race.

Emily McCormick with The Policy Project said the ERA protects women and men.

“And so having an amendment in there that kind of says, 'Listen, the standard in the United States of America is equality, the standard is gender equality, it's equality in all facets of life. That is what the United States does.' It's so meaningful,” said Emily McCormick, the founder of the Policy Project.

Days ago, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, the final state needed to amend the constitution — but there’s a holdup.

"There's this little deadline issue that's at hand right now,” McCormick said.

There was a deadline set 38 years ago to get 38 states to ratify. There are many people fighting legal battles get around that deadline. Even though 38 states have ratified, McCormick said Utah can be the safety net.

Polls show most people agree with the ERA, but McCormick said misinformation has many Utahans concerned.

“If we ratify the ERA, we're talking abortion on every street corner, we're talking shared bathrooms, we're talking gay marriage, we're talking women in the military. OK, well we already know those things are all already legal, they happened without the Equal Rights Amendment,” she said.

The Utah state constitution already has an equal rights clause in it, but Utah hasn't ratified the U.S. ERA.

Now that the legislature is back in session, the ERA will be looked at some time in the next six weeks.

McCormick said now it's important for voters to let their legislators know if the ERA is a priority to them.

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