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Delaware Senate approves equal rights amendment

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(AP) – The state Senate has approved a proposed amendment to Delaware’s constitution guaranteeing equal rights based on sex.

The legislation failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority in the Senate last month but was recalled and approved on a 17-4 vote Wednesday after lawmakers added language clarifying the intent of the legislation.

The proposed amendment states that equality of rights under the law cannot be denied or abridged on account of sex.

Critics have suggested that the proposal could have hidden motives, such as guaranteeing taxpayer funding for abortions or granting special rights to transgender people.

Democrats last month rejected proposed Republican revisions to the amendment, including one stating that the constitutional amendment would not grant or secure any right relating to abortion.

In a compromise, lawmakers amended the bill to add language clarify the intent of the constitutional amendment. While the clarifying language is not included in the constitutional amendment itself, it would become part of Delaware law and could be drawn upon by courts in resolving any constitutional dispute.

Among other things, the clarifying language states that the amendment applies only to the state and its political subdivisions, not private entities. That was one of the proposed Republican changes that Democrats rejected last month.

The clarifying language also states that while a declaration of rights carries the promise that the state will not impair a person’s opportunity to exercise those rights, it does not require the state to fund the exercise of those rights.

Finally, the clarifying language recognizes that there are circumstances when other compelling interests, such as privacy, could influence the state’s decision to support permissible single-sex services or programming.

The bill now goes back to the House for approval of the Senate amendment. If it passes, the proposed constitutional amendment still needs approval by both chambers in the next General Assembly as well.


Read DBT’s special report on recent legislation to achieve gender equality in Delaware.

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