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Delaware House passes state ERA Amendment

Delaware Public Media

Legislation amending Delaware’s Constitution to ban discrimination based on sex is heading to the State Senate.

It’s an important step forward for ERA supporters.

The ERA Amendment sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D- Bear) passed in the House with 34 votes, six more than needed.

Twenty-three states have already added Equal Rights Amendments to their state Constitutions since an attempt in the 1970's to pass a federal ERA amendment failed.

But changing Delaware’s Constitution to include the equal rights language still faces serious opposition.

Five House lawmakers, including State Rep. Richard Collins (R-Millsboro) voted no. Collins said he supports equality of men and women. But he worries about possible unintended consequences.

“Now that’s not to say, given some more time and the opportunity to study this issue and consult with my own experts that I have a relationship with, that possibly I could not change my mind," he said. "But I just felt this is a bad way to do business.”

Longhurst said she realizes there’s still a long road ahead. Changing the state’s constitution takes super majorities both chambers for two consecutive General Assembly sessions.

“And I have talked to both sides of the aisle and we are getting consensus and we are understanding and you know, it’s an education process," she said. "And you know I feel comfortable that they know what this bill does. It’s just a matter of where they’re going to stand on the issue.”

The only other time a state ERA Amendment passed a chamber came in 1984. That’s when current Senate President Pro Tem David McBride’s bill cleared the Senate.

A 2016 ERA bill sponsored by former State Sen. Karen Peterson and Longhurst’s attempt in House last year both failed to move forward.

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