House, Senate pass state Equal Rights Amendment.
Legislators, advocates, and spectators crowded into the Senate chamber Wednesday to witness the fourth and final vote to approve the Equal Rights Amendment in Delaware as the Senate voted 16-5 in favor of House Bill 1, Delaware’s equal rights amendment.
Following the roll call, these words became constitutional law in Delaware: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.”
The bill, HB1, can be read here: Equal Rights Amendment.
Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, hailed the victory as a historic moment and a significant step forward for equality in Delaware.
“This nation has aspired to equality of rights under the law since we first announced independence, but the campaign to write and pass laws that uphold that equality has been a long one indeed,” Hansen said. She was the prime Senate sponsor for both phases of the amendment process."
“Some critics say that passage of an equal rights amendment is largely symbolic because there are many laws that accord women the same rights as men,” President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Hawk’s Nest, said. “But I say that statutory protection is not enough – laws can be amended or narrowly interpreted and applied. The time has come to make women’s rights part of our organic law by embedding those rights in the Delaware Constitution. Only then will we have guaranteed that women’s rights will enjoy universal protection in the First State.”
The bill may be one of the shortest that the legislature will consider this year. At just 16 words, HB 1 has a longer list of sponsors and co-sponsors than anything else, including all 15 women serving in the Delaware state legislature.
Today’s Senate vote follows a successful House floor vote last week, where prime sponsor and House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, led the bill to a 35-6 vote.
“With the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, we have not only set the standard for women’s equality in this moment but for years to come. We are saying strongly and with conviction that we value a vibrant Delaware, where men and women are on an even playing field,” Longhurst said. “The battle for women’s equality has been a decades-long struggle, with advocates tirelessly fighting for rights that should be protected under the law. At long last, their dreams have come to fruition today. It has been an honor to champion this effort with Sen. Hansen, building on the work of the suffragettes and trailblazing women legislators who have come before us.”
Under Article XVI, Section 2 of the state constitution, passage of the equal rights amendment required a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the General Assembly in consecutive sessions. HB 1 became effective upon passage.
Gov. John Carney, whose signature was not required to bring the amendment into effect, called today’s vote an important moment in Delaware history.
“Thank you to members of the Delaware House and Senate for their final passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Delaware Constitution,” Carney said in a prepared statement.
“This amendment lays out clearly the importance of equal rights for women. Though this amendment does not need my signature, I am proud to support the Equal Rights Amendment and I want to extend my thanks to the many advocates who have been fighting for equal rights for generations.”
Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long said, “No protection against discrimination is unacceptable. Equal means equal. From the gender pay gap to workplace discrimination, women deserve to have the same opportunities and rights as men. End of story.”
The bill was approved Jan. 10 by a vote of 35-6 in the House of Representatives, with Reps. Richard G. Collins, R-Lewes, House Minority Leader Timothy D. Dukes, R-Laurel, W. Shannon Morris, R-Camden, Charles S. Postles Jr., R-Milford, Jesse R. Vanderwende, R-Bridgeville, and Lyndon Yearick, R-Magnolia, voting against.
Senators voting against the bill Jan. 16 were Gerald W. Hocker, R-Ocean View, David Lawson, R-Marydel, Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, Bryant L. Richardson, R-Seaford and David L. Wilson, R-Lincoln.