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League of Women Voters Event on Saturday Will Shine Spotlight on Equal Rights Amendment, Which Will Be on the State Ballot in November

To say there is a lot at stake for voters across the country this November would be an understatement.

While a high-stakes presidential election and what will happen in Congress is obviously taking up much of the spotlight, there’s another ballot measure that one group in particular is arguing deserves the attention of voters in New York State.

On Saturday, March 9, the League of Women Voters will host what it’s promising will be a multi-faceted, free and, most importantly, educational event from 1 to 5 p.m. at LTV Studios in Wainscott, centered around a new Equal Rights Amendment to the New York State Constitution that will be on the state ballot in November.

The New York State Legislature already passed the new amendment, on January 24, but it must be approved by voters to become law.

If approved, the amendment would prohibit discrimination by the government based on a person’s ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, and sex — including their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes. It would also protect against any government actions that would curtail a person’s reproductive autonomy or their access to reproductive health care. The ERA would, for the first time, explicitly include language to clarify that discrimination based on a person’s pregnancy or pregnancy outcome is sex discrimination.

The League of Women Voters is offering a lot for attendees on Saturday at LTV Studios, located at 75 Industrial Road in Wainscott.

After welcoming remarks and short opening films, a major feature of the program, titled “The Other November Decision: New York State and the Equal Rights Amendment,” is a 2 p.m. panel discussion and Q&A with retired U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York City, a champion of the ERA; South Carolina State Senator Sandy Senn, who received a JFK Profile in Courage Award for her stand on abortion; and Laura Harding, president of ERASE Racism on Long Island.

The panel will be moderated by Andrea Gabor, LWV board member and Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College/CUNY.

The event will also include a brief talk by local community leaders Minerva Perez, executive director of OLA of Eastern Long Island, a Latino advocacy group; Rainbow Chavis, a member of the Shinnecock Nation; and Marissa Velasquez-Rosante, a young community leader from Hampton Bays.

The day will be both informative and entertaining, including an LTV Women’s History Month Art Show in the halls of the studio, music by the HooDoo Loungers, a New Orleans-style swing band, a spoken word performance by Kate Mueth, founder and artistic director of the Neo-Political Cowgirls, and complimentary wine from Channing Daughters and Suhru Wines, with food and beverages available for purchase from Insatiable Eats.

Gabor, who is moderating the event, said that both her role as moderator and the main purpose of the entire event is clear. “We want this to be educational,” she said, “whatever your personal views are.

“The major reason I joined the board of the League of Women Voters is because I believe passionately in democracy and the importance of people voting,” she continued. “I decided to do this event because I realized that so many of my well-educated friends didn’t know about [the ERA].”

Gabor said the amendment relates to “many important issues” that are topical at the moment, such as the recent fetal personhood ruling in Alabama that has captured national attention — a ruling that Gabor noted came after the ERA was added to the state ballot.

“The whole issue of women’s bodily autonomy as well as a host of other rights that would be guaranteed by this ballot measure are especially relevant right now,” she said.

While Gabor will have some prepared questions for the panelists, she said her hope is that it will evolve into a productive and educational conversation.

Gabor is hoping the event will help make clear for attendees what will happen if the amendment becomes law, and what outcomes could occur if it does not.

“One of the really important points is that New York State has a number of laws that really support a range of personal rights, but as we saw with the Dobbs ruling [overturning the federal right to abortion], a lot of those personal rights can be challenged,” she said. “Depending on who is elected, you could potentially see federal laws that would supersede state laws and counteract all sorts of personal protections that might exist in state law. I’d like the panel to explore what difference does this constitutional amendment make in a blue state?”

A federal equal rights amendment was passed by the United States House of Representatives and Senate in the 1970s, but was never ratified into law. The likelihood of it ever becoming law is slimmer now than it was decades ago, making it even more important for New York State voters to be well informed and educated on the ERA that will be on the November ballot, the event organizers said.

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