Longhurst Files Second Leg of Delaware Equal Rights Amendment

DOVER – House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst introduced Thursday the second leg of Delaware’s Equal Rights Amendment, historic legislation that would set the standard for women’s equality in the First State.

Sponsored by every woman in the General Assembly, House Bill 1, a constitutional amendment, is identical to the ERA legislation that overwhelmingly passed during the 149th General Assembly, HB 399. The language and intent of the bill is simple: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.” If HB 1 is passed by both chambers, that language would be included in Delaware’s Constitution.

“With this legislation, the state is saying that we value equality, and we value a vibrant Delaware where men and women are on an even playing field. We are saying to our young girls that your opportunities to succeed are not limited,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “We’ve learned from the women advocates and suffragettes who have come before us, fighting tirelessly for equal rights, and we have the chance to honor their legacy. It’s time for Delaware to make history and set an example for years to come by enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment in our Constitution.”  

The federal Equal Rights Amendment has a long history. The first ERA was introduced in the 1920s, but was not passed by Congress until 1972, according to the ERA Coalition. The bill subsequently had to be ratified by the states to be added to the U.S. Constitution, with Delaware being one of the first states to authorize the ERA in 1972.

However, the Constitutional amendment fell three states short of the ratification deadline, so it was not added. Now, states across the country are addressing the issue by introducing resolutions and bills that require equal protection under the law.

“We’ve come so far, but we’re not done yet. In a few weeks we’ll have a clear mandate to reaffirm the message we sent last spring: women have waited too long, endured too much, and fought too hard to have equal rights under the law delayed or denied,” said Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, prime senate sponsor of HB 1. “I’m grateful for all of my colleagues’ work and support on this step forward for our state and am looking forward to getting this job done.”