Equal Rights Amendment passes House with ease

DOVER — One day after the Senate passed a modified version of the Equal Rights Amendment, the House did the same.

However, it won’t go to the governor: As a constitutional amendment, it must pass two consecutive General Assemblies, meaning lawmakers will have to approve an identical bill in 2019 or 2020 to make it law.

House Bill 399 seeks to prevent any form of discrimination in state government based on sex by adding to the Delaw are Constitution a line reading “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.”

The measure’s chances appeared uncertain a month ago when the Senate defeated it, but senators recalled their vote Wednesday after reaching a compromise that limits the scope of the bill. A Senate amendment clarifies the proposal would apply solely to state government, allow separation of men and women in some cases and not mandate state funding for abortion.

The bill passed the Senate 17-4 Wednesday and the House 35-6 Thursday, with every “no” vote coming from Republicans.

Rep. Harvey Kenton, who represents the Milford area, supported the proposal in the House in March but not last week.

Backers applauded the passage, calling it long overdue.

“The fight for equal rights has been nearly a hundred years in the making,” House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, a Bear Democrat who is the main sponsor, said on the House floor.

Representatives spent just a few minutes on the bill Thursday, approving it with ease.

Rep. Rich Collins, a Millsboro Republican, took the chance to point out women outnumber men among state workers by a ratio of almost two to one. The state employs about 16,200 women and 9,300 men, he noted.

“I just want to get that in the record,” he said.

Rep. Longhurst responded that was “encouraging” to hear, and the chamber then voted on the bill.

The ERA stems from a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that came close to passing in the 1970s but ultimately fell short of being ratified by the needed 38 states. Delaware endorsed that measure.

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