Delaware Public Media

State ERA passes House, heads to Senate for final vote

Jan 10, 2019

A state Equal Rights Amendment is just one step away from passage.


The Delaware House chamber was a sea of purple as a packed gallery watched history being made.

The amendment adding language to bar discrimination based on sex passed both the House and Senate last year for the first time ever since it was introduced 35 years ago. Amendments must pass both chambers in two consecutive sessions to change the Delaware Constitution.

Lawmakers - many also wearing purple - passed the state Equal Rights Amendment 35-6. Six Republicans voted no, including new members Reps. Shannon Morris and Jesse Vanderwende.

State Rep. Sean Lynn thanks House Majority Valerie Longhurst for sponsoring the ERA Amendment on behalf of his daughter.
Credit Sarah Mueller

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, who sponsored the legislation, appeared emotional after the vote.

“It’s significant because the women that we just honored from 47 years ago that their families got to see what their moms started 47 years ago," she said. "It’s just very overwhelming right now.”

Lawmakers gathered with families of women who served in the legislature when the First State passed the federal ERA Amendment in 1972 before Thursday’s vote to share memories.

The amendment adding language to bar discrimination based on sex passed both the House and Senate last year for the first time since it was introduced 35 years ago. Amendments must pass both chambers in two consecutive sessions to change the Delaware Constitution.

All that stands in the way is a final Senate vote. That vote is set for next week.

Longhurst said she’s confident it will pass there.

“Last year we did a compromise Bill of Rights with the Republicans and they were at the event today and they’re very supportive of it, so I’m pretty confident it’s going to work,” she said.

The Senate compromise clarified the intent of the amendment, addressing concerns about its possible impact on abortion, private sector wages and services only offered to one sex.