Minnesota’s pro-life organizations are warning against a 2020 state ballot proposition that would amend the Minnesota Constitution to provide “equality under the law” on “account of gender.”
House File (HF) 13 was introduced January 10 and would place the following yes-or-no question on the 2020 ballot:
“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that equality under the law must not be abridged or denied on account of gender?”
The House Government Operations Committee approved HF 13 after a January 24 hearing and referred it to the House Ways and Means Committee, according to a House press release. Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (D-New Brighton), the bill’s lead sponsor, said during the hearing that was she was “surprised” to discover that Minnesota didn’t already have such an amendment in its constitution.
“I can’t tell you how surprised I was when I found out that Minnesota does not, or has not been a leader in this effort,” she said, pointing out that 20 states have already passed similar amendments.
Andrea Rau, legislative director with Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, testified against the bill during Thursday’s hearing because similar proposals historically have been used to declare pro-life legislation unconstitutional.
“Equal rights amendments have a history of discriminating against less developed humans, those yet to be born, and we do object to this,” she said. Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River) agreed with Rau, and asked Kunesh-Podein if she would support amending the ballot proposition to clarify that it “does not grant, secure, or deny any right related to the accessibility or provision of abortion services or state funding for those services.”
“My concern is, someone who is devoutly Catholic and pro-life, I don’t want to end up supporting something that, down the road, is used as justification to expand abortion access in the state of Minnesota,” Zerwas said, but Kunesh-Podein ultimately objected to his proposed amendment because she didn’t want her bill to come with any “agendas.”
A companion bill, Senate File (SF) 200, was introduced by Sen. Richard Cohen (D-St. Paul) and referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) said he will not support any constitutional amendments during the 2019 session.
“The most important job of the Legislature this year is to pass a balanced budget, transparently and on time,” he told the Duluth News Tribune. “The Senate doesn’t plan on pursuing any constitutional amendments in 2019.”
House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D-Brooklyn Park), however, thinks that it’s “well past time that” the House approves the Equal Rights Amendment, a colloquial name for the bill.
“It shouldn’t be too controversial to make sure women have equal rights in the year 2019,” she said.
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