It’s been 100 years since women won the right to vote. Yet, to this day, neither the U.S. nor Maine constitutions provide women equal protection under the law. Right now, there is a measure before the Maine Legislature, L.D. 433, that would add an Equal Rights Amendment to our state’s constitution. The ERA would simply state that there can be no discrimination based on sex in Maine. It would strengthen laws related to gender, and it would ensure that progress made for women cannot be reversed.

To amend the Maine Constitution, two-thirds of voting legislators must approve of the proposed change, but that does not make the change final. Maine voters must be given a chance to weigh in. If the ERA legislation is approved at the State House, it will be sent to a statewide ballot, giving Mainers the opportunity to choose the values we want our Constitution to reflect.

At this time, myself and Sen. Matt Pouliot are voting in favor of the measure, but our colleagues in the Augusta legislative delegation, Rep. Justin Fecteau and Rep. Richard Bradstreet, are voting against the ERA. Their decision is one I simply do not understand.

To me, a vote against this bill is a signal to women that our rights should not be guaranteed, that there are still barriers ahead, and that we are not equal.

To be sure, women are treated far more fairly and equally now than we once were, but what is wrong with cementing that sentiment in the law? Why not guarantee that women can’t be discriminated against just for being women? Refusing to put women’s rights in writing leaves them up for debate. Those voting against this law are telling women their equality should not be secured.

I urge our community to ask Reps. Fecteau and Bradstreet to reconsider. Ask them to vote in favor of this legislation. Encourage them to let Maine voters decide. Most of all, help us ensure that future generations of women don’t need to question their rights or if they matter.

Rep. Donna Doore, D-Augusta, is serving her third term in the Maine House of Representatives.

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