The New York Legislature on Tuesday took a crucial step toward amending the state constitution to ban discrimination based on “pregnancy outcomes” or “gender expression” — provisions intended to protect the right to abortion; and a person’s right to seek gender-affirming care.
In two afternoon votes, the Senate and State Assembly approved an expansion of the Equal Protection of the Constitution Amendment, clearing the way for it to pass before voters in a statewide ratification referendum in 2024.
Although the amendment does not explicitly preserve a woman’s right to an abortion, supporters say it would have the practical effect of protecting reproductive rights.
NY LEGISLATURE SHOULD APPROVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROTECTING ABORTION AND GENDER IDEOLOGY
“It is our mandate to continue to strengthen New York’s status as a destination state where reproductive freedoms are protected and the right to choose is guaranteed,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart- Cousins, at a press conference before the vote.
The Legislature gave initial approval to the amendment in a special session last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It was the first step in the state’s amendment process, where lawmakers must pass a resolution twice in order to send it to voters. Governor Kathy Hochul does not need to sign the amendment for it to become law, but has argued for its passage.
The New York Constitution currently prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, creed, or religion”. The amendment would expand this list to include ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, results of pregnancy and “reproductive health and independence”.
Assemblyman David DiPietro, a Republican from Western New York, said during a floor debate that the measure was unfair to many people of faith.
“Passing the Equality Amendment would result in a further erosion of religious freedom for New Yorkers whose faith, traditions teach that abortion, homosexuality and/or being transgendered is immoral and could expose many faith-based charities and schools to catastrophic liability,” DiPietro said. said.
Abortion has been legal in New York since 1970, three years before it was decriminalized nationwide. The law, which is still in effect with little chance of changing anytime soon, allows abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
The state also legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, four years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people across the country had that right.
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Democrats, however, have said they feel compelled to make constitutional changes to ensure certain rights are protected in the future.
“Because guess what? We learned recently that the courts can change and suddenly the protections you thought you had because of court cases are no longer there,” said State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan. .
New York voters will have the final say on whether to ratify the amendment, likely in the same ballot where they choose the next US president.
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“Rest assured, the majority of the Assembly will never stop fighting to ensure that our state’s reproductive protections are rock solid,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said during a briefing. morning rally at the State Capitol.