Yesterday, one house of the Nevada Legislature passed the first in what may be a series of marquis progressive bills. The Senate passed SJR 2 to ratify the ERA. And for this, the vote was bipartisan. The final vote was 13-8.
In committee, Senator Heidi Gansert (R-Reno) crossed party lines to provide SJR 2 backers a 4-1 vote to pass Senate Legislative Operations and Elections. She voted for for SJR 2 again on the Senate floor today. So did Senator Patricia Farley (NP-Summerlin South).
Social conservatives questioned the need for a bill to ratify a federal constitutional amendment that was left for dead nearly 40 years ago. ERA supporters aimed to put these questions to rest today. Nevada women still face hurdles in everything from health care to economic security. And if the 1939 Coleman v. Miller U.S. Supreme Court decision holds, that allows for ratification of the ERA regardless of the 40 year stall.
“We got tired, but we did not faint. […] We persist in the name of all that is good.” – Senator Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas)
Senator Spearman gave a stirring floor speech recounting the history of American civil rights movements in making the case for SJR 2’s passage. “Persistence, faith, and hope fuel the indomitable spirit of this movement.” Spearman then alluded to U.S Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Kentucky) silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) in hinting at the national importance of this vote.
Senator Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) then delivered a rebuttal centered upon her grandmother Sylvia and mother Norma. She recounted their experience of discrimination, from being told not to attend college from being paid less on the job. “I’ve been asked why this is even needed. […] There is a difference between a guaranteed right and having to continue to fight over what equality means.”
Read our interview with Senator Nicole Cannizzaro on advancing SJR 2 and other #NVLeg pro-equality bills.
Senator Gansert later cited Nevada feminist icon Sue Wagner, who endorsed the ERA as a sitting Republican state legislator in 1975. Gansert also recounted her own experience of blazing trails as an engineering student, then as an elected official. “It is still a powerful symbol of equality… Women are stepping up and stepping forward, and I am proud to stand with them.”
Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford (D-Spring Valley) then noted the unique HERstory of this vote: “On the first day of Women’s History Month, we are voting on the Equal Rights Amendment.” He also used his speech to rebut opponents who raised concerns about women in the military: “Four women were buried in Normandy after D-Day.” Ford closed his remarks with a clear message of the meaning of this vote. “I’m willing to press the button […] To show I believe in equality for everyone. Why are we still having this conversation?”
Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) delivered a final rebuttal to Ford and other SJR 2 proponents. “Women have achieved equality under the law. […] The battle has been won.” He described it as a “failed constitutional amendment” that’s “irrelevant” in light of various statutes that already exist. Roberson also claimed the ERA would “deprive the states of the right to anti-abortion legislation” if ratified.
This is likely just the first in a series of civil rights bills to move this session.
Senator Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas) introduced SB 223 on Monday to direct state and local law enforcement to refrain from participating in deportation raids. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard Senators David Parks’ (D-Paradise) and Julia Ratti’s (D-Sparks) SB 110 on Tuesday to improve the name change process for transgender Nevadans. SB 233 dropped yesterday to protect women’s reproductive health care access. And expect more bills to make waves in the coming days.