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Maine lawmakers look to add equal rights amendment to constitution

State Democrats are in favor of adding an equal rights amendment to the constitution, but Republicans are likely to block it.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers are voting on adding an equal rights amendment to the state constitution. The bill would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on the sex of an individual.

Earlier this year, Rep. Lois Reckitt, D-South Portland, introduced a bill to add an equal rights amendment to the state constitution.

"If we get this to the ballot, it's going to pass overwhelmingly," she said.

Now, legislators are working to decide if it will make it to the ballot. For a constitutional amendment to pass, it needs to be approved by a simple majority in the Maine House and Senate. Then it goes back to the House to pass by two-thirds and back to the Senate to pass by the same margin. Then, it goes to voters. Last week, for initial votes, it passed in the House 80-57 and on Wednesday in the Senate 22-12.

Those numbers don't offer hope for a 2/3 majority vote in the future. 

Reckitt said she isn't giving up on this, but some legislators are strongly opposed, including Sen. Stacey Guerin, R-Penobscot. She added it's unnecessary, and everyone has equal rights here in Maine.

"My Grammie Heard and Grammie Smith, when they both turned 21, they weren't allowed to vote. They didn't have equal rights. All those wrongs have been righted now," Guerin said.

She said all women should be concerned about the equal rights amendment when it comes to women's sports.

"Any young man who identified that day as a female could take the place of a female on a women's sports team," Guerin said.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows is Maine's first female secretary of state. She said this amendment must be passed.

"The section of the constitution that refers to the secretary of state is written entirely in male pronouns. Our founders never dreamed that someone like myself would be secretary of state someday," Bellows said.

"We've done a pretty good job in Maine, but there are some things that we haven't touched. So I think that that is an important piece that we review all of our laws and be sure they are not set up discriminatorily," Reckitt added.

This will head back to the Maine House for a vote before the legislative session wraps up in April.

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