Republican state senators today rejected an effort by the chamber’s Democrats to vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Stymied by the traditional legislative process – GOP Sen. Eddie Farnsworth of Mesa blocked a resolution to ratify the ERA from a hearing in his Senate Judiciary Committee – Democrats motioned Wednesday afternoon to suspend Senate rules and bring the resolution to an immediate vote on the Senate floor.
But the motion, made by Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, D-Tucson, failed on a 13-16 party line vote.
Even Republican senators who signaled their support to ratify the ERA voted against the procedural maneuver.
Sens. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix and Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, both co-sponsored the resolution in favor of the ERA, but voted against suspending the rules to bring the matter to a vote. Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, also co-sponsored the resolution, but was not on the Senate floor for the vote.
Had the Arizona Senate supported the resolution, it still would’ve needed approval in the House of Representatives. But moving the resolution along would’ve put Arizona one step closer to being the crucial 38th state to ratify the ERA. Thirty-seven states have ratified the amendment to date and it would take one more to amend the U.S. Constitution, though lawmakers debated whether it’s too late to ratify.
Democratic senators argued that voting to ratify the amendment was something of a moral obligation on behalf of women in Arizona and throughout the country.
Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Tucson, concisely summarized the arguments of her colleagues: “Women do not have equality in the United States.”
Republicans argued that issues raised by the minority party, such as pay gaps between men and women, are already addressed in other laws. Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said that the ERA could lead to unintended consequences, such as transgender men infringing on women and the amendment being used to uphold abortion rights.
After a heated debate that lasted nearly two hours, Bradley said the motion to suspend the rules, which essentially bucks the authority of GOP leaders, was not meant as a partisan blow. Instead, it was merely a sign that the minority party disagreed with Farnsworth’s decision to shelve the bill in his committee, Bradley said, and that Democrats sought a chance for debate.
“The irony is that what just happened in the last two hours was exactly what was being requested,” Bradley said. “The difference is that people on both sides of the issue who are sitting up in the gallery would have been permitted to speak.”
The Senate’s vote was met with disdain by ERA backers in the Senate gallery, who jeered GOP senators as “cowards” and shouted “shame as the exited the chamber.
Though the ERA resolution failed, the debate did mark the first time in years that Democrats were given an opportunity to debate the measure on the floor of either the Senate or House.
Past efforts by Democratic representatives in the House have been undercut by procedural maneuvers from Republicans to avoid any discussion.