Topeka A proposal to put an equal rights amendment in the Kansas Constitution was praised by supporters who said the measure would provide fundamental protections for women.
But opponents of the proposed amendment said it would lead to same-sex marriage, would ease abortion restrictions and would even strike down laws against rape.
SCR 1608 was heard by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.
The resolution states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state or any of its political or taxing subdivisions on account of sex.”
To be put in the Kansas Constitution, the measure would require a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate, and a majority vote at the polls in a statewide ballot.
After the hearing, Federal and State Affairs Chairman Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said he wasn’t sure if there would be a vote on the measure by the committee.
Kansas ratified the federal equal rights amendment in the 1970s, but that effort eventually failed to gain national ratification. Twenty-two states currently have equal rights amendments in their state constitutions.
Anthony Singer, an attorney from Wichita, said he supported the proposed Kansas amendment because he wanted his three daughters to be considered as equal with men under the law.
Singer, who identified himself as a Republican, said, “Gender equality is not a Republican issue. It’s not a Democratic issue. It’s an American issue. It’s something that we all ought to get behind and support.”
Krista Kastler, a graduate student in social welfare at Kansas University, said the amendment would give women stronger legal standing when facing discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace.
“This amendment would make it easier for women to take action against injustices they face,” Kastler said.
But Judy Smith, director of the Kansas chapter of Concerned Women of America, described the amendment as an “unnecessary and outdated icon of radical feminism.” Smith said that if approved the amendment could be used to remove laws against rape. A supporter of the amendment, attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, said that was “ridiculous.”
Beatrice Swoopes, of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said that because only women receive abortions, the amendment could be used to strike down laws that restrict abortion.
“It is intentionally open-ended to put the abortion question in the hands of the courts,” Swoopes said.
Jeanne Gawdun, of Kansans for Life, said that could jeopardize laws dealing with late-term abortion or parental notification.
But Kari Ann Rinker of Wichita, with the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, said the amendment, as evidenced in states that have equal rights amendments, will not result in changes to abortion laws.
That issue, along with other claims that the amendment would allow same-sex marriage and uni-sex bathrooms, is brought up by opponents to “denigrate this important debate,” Rinker said.
She said Kansas’ pioneer history is full of breakthroughs for women and approving an equal rights amendment would “follow through with the unfinished business of the heroines of our past.”