January 11, 2022

AUGUSTA – Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt, D-South Portland, introduced legislation January 11, 2022 to amend the Maine Constitution to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on the sex of an individual.

The proposal, LD 344, is part of a 50-year effort Galgay Reckitt has been involved in to get states to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment.

During the bill’s public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, over 100 individuals testified in support of the measure.

“It’s no secret, I have been advocating for a federal Equal Rights Amendment every day since 1972. In 1973, as a private citizen, I lobbied the Maine Legislature to ratify that proposal – losing in the Senate by one vote. The next year, in 1974, I did the same, and we were successful. Today, even with the required number of states that have ratified the amendment, the ERA is still not the law of the land,” said Rep. Reckitt. “The bottom line is that it’s a matter of principle and permanence with the foundation of Maine’s laws treating all Maine citizens equally regardless of sex or gender.”

“We marked the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in 2020. We should take this opportunity to see that the right to equal protection is enshrined in the Maine Constitution so that 100 years from now, our descendants and future citizens will say, ‘What was all the fuss about?,’”said Governor Mills. “I urge the Legislature to support this bill so that I can accompany the five adult women whom I proudly call my daughters, and my two little granddaughters, to the polls to cast my vote so that they, and their uncles, cousins and friends will be fully protected in our most sacred document and have the equal opportunity under the law that we have come to expect and demand.”

Gov. Janet Mills and several members of the Legislature, including Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, and House Majority Leader Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, submitted testimony in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.

“An Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in every Congress since 1920 and was finally passed and sent out to the states for ratification in 1972. Maine ratified the ERA in 1974, the same year I arrived to make Maine my home. That’s why I was so proud, back in 2019, when I had the opportunity to stand on the floor of the Senate Chamber, and speak and vote in favor of an Equal Rights Amendment for Maine,” said Sen. Vitelli. “The bill before us this year represents not just a continuation of our work from 2019, but of the generations of women and allies who dedicated their lives to the fight for equal rights. Now more than ever we need to say, in no uncertain terms, that we will not allow any discrimination on the basis of sex.” 

Members of the Judiciary Committee will hold a work session on the proposal in the coming weeks. If the Legislature passes Galgay Reckitt’s bill with a two-thirds majority, the proposal will be sent to Maine voters for final approval.

“The progress our state has made in eradicating sex-based discrimination from our laws is crucial, yet without equal protection under the law enshrined in our constitution, our statutes and rights remain up for debate,” said Rep.Dunphy. “It has been 102 years since women won the right to vote and 50 years since the federal Equal Rights Amendment was sent out to states for ratification. It is long past time that the Maine Legislature approves this constitutional amendment and gives Maine voters an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.”

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