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Pro and Con on Measure 89 - Guarantees equal rights regardless of sex

Election ballots should be in your mail soon.
Election ballots should be in your mail soon.
Guest writer Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo of Portland is founder and president of VoteERA.org. She grew up in Coos Bay and has a degree in marketing from Portland State University.
Guest writer Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo of Portland is founder and president of VoteERA.org. She grew up in Coos Bay and has a degree in marketing from Portland State University.
Sen. Doug Whitsett has represented District 28 in the Oregon Legislature since 2004. The district includes parts of Crook, Deschutes, Jackson, Klamath and Lake counties.
Sen. Doug Whitsett has represented District 28 in the Oregon Legislature since 2004. The district includes parts of Crook, Deschutes, Jackson, Klamath and Lake counties.

Yes on Measure 89

By Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo

Why is it important to vote YES on Measure 89?

1. Women are not equal in the Oregon Constitution.

2. Women are not equal in Oregon case law because of an exception for “biological differences.” You cannot have equality if you are subject to discrimination based on biological differences.

3. Women are not equal in the United States Constitution.

Measure 89 will establish state policy banning discrimination based on sex. The language of Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution, written in 1857, has not changed. Under it, women could not vote, could not serve on juries and most could not own property. Women still do not receive equal pay for equal work.

Measure 89 will provide momentum for the federal Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, which still does not adequately protect women.

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in 2011, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.”

Four former Oregon Supreme Court Justices took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter in favor of Measure 89 to establish the legal facts. Their letter in June 2014 signed by former justices DeMuniz, Gillette, Riggs and Van Hoomissen included the following:

“First, as the Attorney General’s ballot title makes clear, no provision in the Oregon Constitution expressly provides protections for women. Instead, the protections available to women are present as a result of case law. … Measure 89 would remove the biological differences exception.”

A detractor says others’ rights could be affected by passage of an Oregon ERA. The justices stated: “The text of the ERA itself provides that nothing in it will diminish the rights of any group under any provision of the Oregon Constitution. …Oregon’s Office of Legislative Counsel has also issued opinions further supporting that nothing in ERA proposal will diminish the rights of any other group. At least 22 states have adopted equal rights amendments in their constitutions. Not one of the ‘concerns’ voiced by [detractors] has ever come to pass in those states.”

The Justices concluded their letter with another reference to the detractors of the measure: “They are mistaken to oppose passage of the Oregon ERA. We believe that passage of the Oregon ERA will acknowledge the contributions and importance of more than 50% of our citizens by finally providing women express recognition in our state’s most important document, its constitution.”

The women who sought the right to vote needed to resort to the initiative, just as we have. We are moving in the right direction with Measure 89 today.

Measure 89 has bi-partisan support and is endorsed by a long list of organizations, elected officials, community leaders and Oregonians from all over the state, including former Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Business Association and the League of Women Voters.

Women do not have the strongest protection in the Oregon Constitution. Let’s fix that by passing Measure 89.

Guest writer Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo of Portland is founder and president of VoteERA.org. She grew up in Coos Bay and has a degree in marketing from Portland State University.

 

No on Measure 89

By Sen. Doug Whitsett

Ballot Measure 89 purports to amend the Oregon Constitution by adding a new Section 46 to Article I that guarantees “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in the state on account of sex.”

I do not support the measure because it is not needed and adds duplicate and unnecessary language to our Constitution. Moreover, the measure may be construed by future Oregon courts to mandate the state to pay for abortions.

Article 1, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution states that “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

The current constitutional wording containing “any citizen or class of citizen” certainly includes citizens of any gender. However, the proposed addition of sex as a specific class of citizen, in the proposed new Section 46, may open the “equality” determination to sex-specific conditions such as pregnancy.

There is already legal precedent for this. In 1973, the state of New Mexico adopted an Equal Rights Amendment very similar to the language proposed in Measure 89. Their amendment stated: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person.”

Planned Parenthood, NARAL and others brought a lawsuit claiming that the state’s ERA required the state to pay for medically necessary abortions.

The apparent logic of their claim was that women comprise a separate class of citizens capable of the condition of pregnancy. The pregnancy condition could require a medical necessary abortion. Therefore, to deny them a medically necessary abortion would be denying a medically necessary treatment to a class of citizens.

In a 1998 decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed. The Court ruled 5-0 that the refusal to fund elective abortions violated the state’s ERA because it does not apply the same standard of medical necessity to both men and women.

The court ordered the state to pay for medically necessary abortions.

It is my understanding that a medically necessary abortion is generally determined to mean an abortion performed by a licensed professional. For that reason, the New Mexico Supreme Court order essentially requires the state to pay for abortion on demand for women covered by Medicaid.

All Oregonians should want equal rights under the law for all citizens, and I support that.

Both Article 1, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution already guarantee women, and all other citizens, equal rights under the law.

I will not speculate regarding the motives of those who proposed and are financially supporting Measure 89. However, Oregon voters should seriously consider the potential negative consequences of adopting the Equal Rights Amendment.

Because of all this, I urge a No vote on this unnecessary and potentially troubling proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution.

Sen. Doug Whitsett has represented District 28 in the Oregon Legislature since 2004. The district includes parts of Crook, Deschutes, Jackson, Klamath and Lake counties.

 

 

 

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