Nevadans appear to have voted in favor of a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment to the state constitution, and for the first time, the amendment includes explicit language on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Critics warn that the new amendment will prove to be a “Trojan horse for gender ideology” that threatens “harm to women and children” and mandates “discrimination against faith-based organizations and religious medical professionals.”
The Equal Rights Amendment, which initially aimed to guarantee equal rights to women, passed Congress in the early 1970s, before failing to receive the necessary approval of 38 states by the March 22, 1979 deadline. Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly mobilized conservative women in opposition to the ERA, warning that it would disadvantage housewives and cause women to get drafted into the military, among other negative consequences. Pro-life groups have also warned that courts would use the ERA to strike limits to abortion and mandate taxpayer funding of abortion.
Nevada adopted the federal Equal Rights Amendment in 2017, but the new amendment expands on that measure.
The federal ERA outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex, while the new Nevada ERA also forbids discrimination on the basis of many other factors, including race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and more.
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this State or any of its political subdivisions on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin,” the amendment states.
The pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign announced its support for the Nevada ERA earlier this month.
“We are proud to endorse the Equality of Rights Amendment (ERA) for Nevada. The ERA provides state constitutional protections for all communities across the Silver State,” the HRC state chapter tweeted.
“The time is NOW to show the nation that we, as Nevadans, lead when it comes to equality for all,” Nevada state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Clark County, remarked in 2019. “The measure before you today clarifies that the equality of rights should not only be based upon the sex of an individual, but on the wholistic aspects of all persons, which includes the mind, body, and spirit.”
State Sen. Heidi Gansert, R-Washoe County, said that the amendment “contains powerful words that can change people’s lives.”
Neither HRC nor Cannizzaro nor Gansert responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Americans support equality of rights under the law, and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution already extends equal protection to all Americans. Yet critics warn that the Nevada ERA is a “Trojan horse” for gender ideology.
“This effort, like so many other state efforts to pass laws and amendments under the guise of ‘equality,’ is a Trojan horse for gender ideology,” Jay Richards, director of the DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)
“Americans already enjoy equal protection under the law with the exception of the unborn,” Richards added. “So ‘equality’ laws like the one in Nevada are exercises in deception. Other states should take notice.”
Matt Sharp, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, warned that the Nevada ERA threatens harm to women and children and mandates discrimination against faith-based organizations.
“The freedom to live peaceably according to one’s beliefs is a fundamental right, resting in our human dignity and codified by the First Amendment,” Sharp told The Daily Signal. “Nevada’s Equal Rights Amendment hides behind promises of toleration and empowerment, while its policies threaten real harm to women and children and mandate discrimination against faith-based organizations and religious medical professionals.”
“While we are disappointed by the passage of this amendment, ADF will continue to stand for religious freedom and defend those whose beliefs are trampled by such misguided and discriminatory laws,” Sharp added.
ADF has represented many high-profile cases involving laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The Christian law firm represented Jack Phillips, a Christian baker in Colorado who gladly sold baked goods to LGBT people but refused to craft a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. His court battle stretched on for years, until the Supreme Court found that a Colorado agency had discriminated against him on the basis of his faith in 2018. Yet after that victory, a transgender activist asked Phillips to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition and filed a complaint against him when he refused.
The “gender identity” and “gender expression” aspects of the Nevada ERA extend even further than such cases. Under the Nevada ERA, women’s restrooms and changing rooms must be open to males who claim to identify as women. Women’s sports must admit biological males who claim to identify as women, allowing them to compete against women.
As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito warned, transgender policies like this may also conflict with religious freedom and free speech, as “misgendering” a person who claims to be transgender may be perceived as a form of discrimination. Perversely, in the name of ensuring “equality of rights under the law,” the Nevada ERA may deprive Nevadans of the right to speak their mind on these hot-button issues.
Perhaps most worrisome, the Nevada ERA’s provisions regarding “gender identity” and “age” may open the door for kids to access controversial transgender medical interventions without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
Such attacks on parental rights seem frighteningly common. Critics have warned that two abortion ballot measures that passed in Michigan and Vermont open the door for such “treatments” in the name of reproductive rights, and Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., signed a law making California a sanctuary state for kids to receive such “treatments” in the face of parental opposition. A Virginia Democrat has supported legislation declaring a father’s unwillingness to call his daughter a boy a form of child abuse.
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