Gravel & Shea Partner Michelle Farkas joined Vermont Senator Ginny Lyons and other panelists at a conference held last weekend to provide information about an upcoming action to amend the Vermont Constitution.
The Champlain Valley League of Women Voters presented the event: Building Equality – Discussing an Inclusive Equal Rights Amendment for Vermont. The panel also included Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, and Ella Spottswood, Deputy Attorney General in the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.
Farkas served on the initial committee that developed an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) resolution in 2018 (S.R. 11), which was passed by the Vermont Senate that same year. The resolution called for a constitutional amendment to be offered in 2019 that would provide that “equal protection under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of race, sex, age, religion, creed, color, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.”
Under the Vermont Constitution, amendments can only be introduced every four years. If they’re passed by both chambers in the year they’re offered, they must go up for vote and pass again in the next legislative session, and then be approved by a public referendum. 2019 is the appropriate year for introduction of a new amendment, and the earliest it could become effective is 2022.
Passage of a similar amendment was attempted in the 1980s but failed the public referendum. That amendment, says Farkas, was less inclusive. “That was just addressing gender. This is addressing many protected classes.”
Speaking to a reporter after the event, Farkas explained why an amendment is important. “Once it’s there, it’s also very hard to unravel. [I]t…ensures and guarantees these equal protections going forward.”