A Majority of Oregon’s Electorate Voted for Women’s Equality in the Midterm Election

Measure 89, a state constitutional Equal Rights Amendment which was placed on the ballot in Oregon by a citizen’s petition, passed overwhelmingly by a nearly 2-1 margin, with 64 percent of voters turning out in support of constitutional equality for women.

via Jessica Johnson
via Jessica Johnson

Over 116,000 signatures from registered voters in Oregon put Measure 89 on the ballot. Voting in Oregon is done by mail, and around 69.5 percent of voters submitted ballots for the 2014 general election yesterday, making up the highest voting percentage by any state in the nation.

Measure 89 was a project of Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, president of VoteERA.org, who ran the petition drive and subsequent campaign with the support of the Feminist Majority Foundation. DiLorenzo argued for explicit protections for women in the state constitution. “The language of Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution, written in 1857, has not changed,” she wrote. “Under it women could not vote, could not serve on juries, most could not own property, and women still do not have equal pay for equal work.”

“I am proud that the FMF campus campaign in Oregon worked on 9 campuses throughout the state to educate and mobilize students for passage of Measure 89,” Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of the FMF, told Feminist Newswire. “The students were shocked to find out that there was no provision against sex discrimination in the Oregon constitution and they worked hard for passage of this state Equal Rights Amendment.”

Four former Oregon Supreme Court justices wrote an open letter supporting Measure 89. “We believe that passage of the Oregon ERA will acknowledge the contributions and importance of more than 50 percent of our citizens by finally providing women express recognition in our state’s most important document, its constitution,” the justices wrote. In addition, Measure 89 was endorsed by many state officials including the Governor John Kitzhaber both U.S. Senators from Oregon, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, who was re-elected on Tuesday. Many organizations, including the YWCA, NAACP, American Association of University Women, Feminist Majority Foundation, Oregon labor groups, business groups, the Oregon Nurses Association, and the Oregon Education Association endorsed Measure 89.

Twenty-three states now have an equal rights provision in their state constitutions. The wording of the Oregon ERA is based on the federal ERA, which has been ratified by 35 states and needs just three more states to approve it for final ratification. Measure 89 reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.” It continues, “The Legislative Assembly shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this section. The final provision reads, “ Nothing in this section shall diminish a right otherwise available to persons under section 20 of this Article or any other provision of this Constitution.”

Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation, Ballotpedia, VoteERA.org, Oregon Secretary of State, Oregon Public Broadcasting 11/4/2014; The Oregonian 11/4/2014, 10/20/2014, 10/18/2014; Ms. Blog 10/15/2014; Feminist Newswire 9/15/2014; equalrightsamendment.org

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