The Equal Rights Amendment for women on Wednesday won approval from the Nevada Senate.
The vote was 13-8 with Independent Patricia Farley and Reno Republican Heidi Gansert voting for ratification. The rest of the Republican members voted no.
This is the fourth attempt to win ratification of the ERA by the Nevada Legislature. In all three previous cases, the proposed constitutional amendment cleared one house — as it did Wednesday — but died in the second house. It passed the Assembly but died in the Senate in 1973 and 1975. It passed the Senate but died in the Assembly in 1977.
This session, however, it has a much better chance for second house approval than it did in the past. First, Democrats hold a 27-15 majority in the Assembly. Second, unlike during the 1970s, 17 of those members are women.
Sen. Pat Spearman, D-Las Vegas, sponsor of the Senate Joint Resolution 2, decried the “false information and innuendos about equality for all citizens and placing that guarantee in the Constitution.”
“Objections to ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment are false, disingenuous and misleading,” she said.
“The Equal Rights Amendment is about equality, period,” Spearman said. “We have delayed passage long enough.”
Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, however, said the nation already has laws that recognize gender equality and he believes ERA would cause harm to “a nation built upon the concept of family ideals.”
He charged it will magnify the “fires of intolerance and hate.”
Gansert said there may be laws protecting women’s rights that make the ERA seem redundant but it’s still a powerful statement for equality.
She said 40 percent of lawmakers are women, far more than when she first ran for the Assembly in 2004 that now, “there are strong women serving as house leaders and chairs.”
“I am proud to stand beside them,” she said. “I will be voting for.”
Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, told the story of multiple generations of women in her own family who were barred from going to college, told they couldn’t get home loans without a husband or join certain professions. She said unfortunately, those issues are still with society, validating the need for the ERA.
Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, gave a lengthy tribute to “the women in my life” from his grandmother to his daughters and the young women he coached in basketball. He emphasized they all have equal rights, then voted against ratification.
Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas, said her concern is the ERA would require women register for the draft and, if both parents were called into active service, “if they have children, there would be nobody home to care for those children.”
She said ERA has no exclusions that would prevent that. She said she believes it’s time Nevada enact its own ERA instead, providing some necessary exclusions the federal amendment doesn’t.
Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said he doesn’t believe the amendment does anything now because scholars say the ERA has effectively become the law of the land through legal action and numerous court rulings he said make up a “de facto ERA.”
Roberson said his concern is the ERA would open the door to mandatory repeal of all abortion laws and require publicly funded abortions.
Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas repeated the question he asked during the committee hearing on the measure a week ago: “Why are we still having this conversation? It should have been put to bed a long time ago.”
Unlike a bill, SJR2 is a joint resolution that doesn’t require support by the governor.