PORTLAND — Supporters are gathering signatures to put a state Equal Rights Amendment against gender discrimination on the November ballot in Oregon.
The question has divided advocates of protection against gender discrimination.
Some say a state-level amendment is needed. Others say that Oregon's Supreme Court has provided strong protections, and a state-level amendment might lead a judge to conclude that voters intended for guarantees against gender discrimination to be stronger than those against discrimination based on race, religion or sexual orientation.
Proposals for a state-level Equal Rights Amendment didn't make it through the Legislature, leading to the initiative drive, The Oregonian reported Monday.
Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, the president of VoteERA.org, said it isn't enough to have protection against gender discrimination resting on case law.
"Shouldn't women be explicitly equal in every constitution?" she said. "To me, the answer is an absolute 'Yes, of course.' "
The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union hasn't taken a stand on the rewritten state-level measure now being proposed, Executive Director David Fidanque said.
"We're going to take another look at it here in the next few months depending on how the signature gathering goes," Fidanque said. "I think the way it's written now, it shouldn't do any harm, which was our major concern in the spring."
A national Equal Rights Amendment is needed because the federal government treats sex discrimination differently from racial and other forms of discrimination, he said, but that's not the case under state law, Fidanque said.
The campaign to pass a state amendment coincides with a revived national campaign to pass a federal Equal Rights Amendment. That amendment, approved by Congress in 1972, never went into effect because it fell three states short of the minimum 38 states needed for ratification.
Proponents of the state measure will need 116,284 valid signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. The backers have been gathering signatures since the measure was approved for circulation on Dec. 20.
Littrell DiLorenzo said paid petition-gatherers were to join the effort on Monday.