After coming up short at the capitol for more than a decade, backers of a Minnesota equal rights amendment view 2024 as their moment. Lawmakers and supporters are tweaking a proposed addition to Minnesota’s Constitution to address new concerns around equality. That has meant explicitly spelling out rights to pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, though authoring groups have not formally agreed to the final draft.
The result could yield the most expansive equal rights policy in the country. Advocates say the change is critical in this political moment, while opponents say it’s a Trojan horse that could come with unintended consequences.
“Minnesotans value freedom. We value our reproductive freedom, and we value our rights. And that’s what this new language reflects,” said Betty Folliard, founder of ERA Minnesota.
Last year, state lawmakers approved a resolution directing Congress to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While supporters consider that a step forward, they’re pressing DFL leaders to bring a state version before voters as soon as this fall.
In 2023, the Minnesota Senate passed the bill that would let voters decide a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights no matter someone’s race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin. But the House didn’t take it up for a vote.
In the months since, ERA Minnesota, along with civil rights, reproductive health and other groups have been working on the amendment. They’ve added provisions to include protections for people seeking abortions and gender-affirming care in Minnesota.
While some Republicans backed the amendment in its original form, GOP leaders said that rolling in additional provisions would likely make the effort partisan.
“A statewide constitutional amendment should unite people, not divide them,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks. “Stitching every issue into one Frankenstein ballot question is divisive and political, and it will come back to haunt them. Minnesotans value consensus and it’s unfair and inappropriate to engage in such brazen political gamesmanship with the state constitution.”
(Source: Minnesota Public Radio)