Nevada LegislatureSocial Justice

The State of Women’s Rights in #NVLeg: A Conversation with Nicole Cannizzaro

The Nevada Legislature is historic… Wait, scratch that. It’s HERstoric for several reasons, including the fact that 40% of legislators are women this session.

With feminists increasingly concerned about the Trump Administration’s lack of commitment to advancing civil rights, can they make change happen at the state level? I spoke with a legislator who’s already making waves on the equality front.

Senator Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) was elected last November. She chairs the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections (LOE) Committee. On Wednesday, Senate LOE passed SJR 2 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

At the Monday committee hearing, opponents questioned the need for a bill to ratify something that’s been considered dead for nearly 40 years. When I asked, Cannizzaro strongly disagreed.

“It’s important to guarantee fundamental rights. […] This is a nonpartisan issue. This is about equality under the law.”

Even today, women still face challenges in pay equity, health care access, and other forms of discrimination. It’s something Senator Heidi Gansert (R-Reno) noted when she cast the fourth vote to pass SJR 2. Only Senator James Settelmeyer (R-Minden) voted against SJR 2 in committee.

Cannizzaro was proud of this bipartisan committee vote, and she hopes for more of them on other pro-equality bills.

“We’ve been working hard to ensure women have equal rights.”

I asked Cannizzaro whether she expects to Governor to sign bills on matters like pay equity and access to reproductive health care. She struck an optimistic tone. “If we’ve learned anything, it’s that Nevadans want equal rights under the law. These should not be partisan. These are goals we should all work toward.”

And yet, feminists are fighting hard against the headwinds coming from the Trump White House. Cannizzaro acknowledged that, yet she also noted the opportunity for the State of Nevada to correct this closer to home.

“We have an excellent chance to make sure we have safeguards here.”

Cannizzaro then connected the dots in explaining the potential for common ground the Legislature and Governor Sandoval can reach in protecting immigrant communities, strengthening LGBTQ civil rights laws, furthering racial justice, and cementing in place equal protection for Nevada’s women. “State government can really make a difference in policies that are enacted. They make an effect on everyday lives.”

Indeed, policies like comprehensive workplace non-discrimination, driver authorization cards, and transgender inclusive health care can and do make real effects on everyday lives. So can better access to reproductive health care. So can pay equity. And perhaps so can that “40 year overdue” ratification of the ERA. Perhaps now that 40% of our legislators are women, we’ll start to see more of this come to fruition.

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2 comments

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