Legislative Democrats introduced the Equal Rights Amendment to Wisconsin’s Constitution Monday.
The amendment — championed by Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison — would amend the Constitution to guarantee equal rights on the basis of sex, gender identity, race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, marital status, family status, age, ancestry or any other immutable characteristic. The amendment was introduced on International Women’s Day.
“If we are to achieve freedom and equality, we must guarantee equal rights for all, regardless of who you are, where you come from, or who you love; and regardless of how you worship, the color of your skin or any of the unique, immutable characteristics that make us who we are,” Subeck said.
The federal Equal Rights Amendment passed in the House of Representatives in 1971 and later in the Senate in 1972. Wisconsin was one of the first states to ratify it. The amendment, however, never gained the three-fourths majority needed to be added to the U.S. Constitution within the necessary time frame.
Efforts to ratify the amendment at the federal level were stagnant until Nevada became the first state to ratify it in 40 years in 2017, followed by Illinois and Virginia in 2018 and 2020. The amendment now has a three-fourths majority, but a federal judge ruled Friday that the deadline has expired.
Thirty states have passed or are in the process of passing equal rights amendments to their constitutions that protect discrimination baesd on sex.
Other Democrats, including Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, also expressed support for adding the amendment to the state Constitution.
“Our state has a long tradition of fighting for equal protection of its residents, and I am proud that Wisconsin was one of the first states to ratify a federal Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. We should build upon that action in the 20th century by passing a state constitutional amendment in the 21st century,” Hintz said in a statement.
Rep. Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa, said she was proud to co-sponsor the amendment.
“It is time for our state to enshrine that all Wisconsinites deserve equal treatment under the law,” Vining said in a statement.
Wisconsin’s Constitution can be amended in two ways, either through a constitutional convention or it can be introduced through the legislature. A majority of both houses must vote in favor, then the legislature must vote a second time after the general elections which bring in new lawmakers. Finally, it must be approved by voters in the next general election.