After its dramatic debut in the Senate, “The People’s House” of the Nevada Legislature got its first crack at SJR 2 to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Continuing the Nevada Women’s Week theme, the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee held its hearing on SJR 2. Will the HERstoric bill continue to blaze its trail all the way to final passage?
Last Wednesday, Senator Heidi Gansert (R-Reno) joined Senator Patricia Farley (NP-Summerlin South) and all 11 Senate Democrats to pass SJR 2 out of their chamber. The floor vote followed intense debate at the Senate Committee hearing, and Senator Gansert’s first announcement of support at the committee vote. Then at a press gaggle just minutes before the Assembly hearing, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) endorsed SJR 2.
There was no similar bipartisanship on display at today’s Assembly hearing. However, there was another round of emotional testimony on the constitutional amendment that’s suddenly enjoying a new lease on life. Senator Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) opened the hearing with a simple explanation of what her bill is about.
“This resolution is about equality under the law for all people, regardless of gender.” – Senator Spearman
Spearman then rebutted opponents claims that the ERA would result in the abolition of scores of anti-discrimination measures, cuts to Social Security benefits, mandatory military service, “abortion on demand”, and/or legalize marriage to the Eiffel Tower. Many of these claims were mentioned again by opponents at today’s hearing.
Spearman also rebutted claims that the ERA is dead. Kevin Powers, legal counsel from the nonpartisan Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), agreed. He explained that despite Congress’ statutory 1982 deadline, prior case law points to Congress still being able to accept SJR 2. Powers also stated that SJR 2 does not affect abortion law, as both federal and state law already protect women’s right to abortion access.
“I’m 72 years old. I don’t want my daughter to go through what I did.” Barbara Aupperle, Las Vegas
During testimony, several women arose to share their personal experiences and this state’s storied HERstory. Legislators heard multiple stories of discrimination at work, in school, and elsewhere. Local activist Judy Klein took to the table at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas to thank the Committee for allowing the reading of then Senator Sue Wagner’s (R) speech in support of the ERA.
“For all of us, I ask that we pass this resolution. Stand & be proud. […]We’re way far away from 1972.” Judy Klein, Las Vegas
When a similar ERA ratification bill was up in 2015, then Senate Majority (now Senate Minority) Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) declined to allow the reading of Wagner’s speech during testimony. Former State Senator Helen Foley (D), who was the other woman who served in the State Senate alongside Wagner in the 1980s, declared that the ERA “is not a partisan issue”. She also rebutted Assembly Member Ira Hansen’s (R-Sparks) claim that existing statutes already guarantee equality for women.
“We’ve come a long way, baby… But we’re not all the way.” – Helen Foley
#nvwomensweek kicked off with yesterday’s hearings on two health care bills. Later this week, committees will hear bills on workplace discrimination and community health programs.