If you want half the Republicans in Carson City to support a terrible bill, just give it an attractive name. That’s what happened when the so-called Equal Rights Amendment came up for a vote.
Equal rights are a good idea. But as anyone who’s been involved in politics for more than five minutes understands, you can’t judge a bill by its branding. The details matter.
Senate Joint Resolution 8 seeks to add a new section to the Nevada Constitution. It would read, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this State or any of its political subdivisions on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.”
There’s something ironic about the first female-majority Legislature in the country’s history making the case that women don’t have equal rights in Nevada.
But what does “equality of rights under the law” mean?
In 1973, New Mexico added an equal rights amendment to its constitution focused solely on sex. In 1998, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that amendment meant the state had to provide taxpayer-funded abortions.
This should have made voting against SJR8 an easy decision for any Republican. Republican politicians usually claim to oppose taxpayer-funded abortions, and so does the general public. A 2016 Harvard poll showed just 36 percent of Americans support taxpayer funding for abortion with 58 percent opposed.
It’s not every day your political opponents are willing to go on the record supporting a cause with a -22 favorability rating.
But instead of voting against SJR8, a majority of legislative Republicans voted for it. As a constitutional amendment, it has to be approved by the Legislature in 2021 and by voters in 2022.
Why? I was reliably told that campaign consultants urged Republicans to vote yes as a way to woo female voters. With advice like that, no wonder Republicans are flirting with super minorities in both chambers.
It’s not like Republicans, especially in the Senate, are unaware of this possibility either. Two years ago, every Republican senator cosponsored an Equal Rights Amendment focused solely on gender. That amendment explicitly stated it didn’t create any right to abortion or abortion funding. That effort never received a floor vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Yet, two years later, six of the eight Republican senators voted for a bill that contained no limits on how a court could use it to expand abortion. Five of the six Republican “yes” votes were in the Senate in 2017.
Making it worse is that this version covers much more than sex. For instance, it prohibits any government from denying equality of rights based on someone’s gender expression or identity.
That means everyone voting for this bill supports allowing biological men to use female locker rooms and showers at city-run swimming pools. It will allow biological boys to play girls’ sports.
Earlier this year in Connecticut, two biological boys placed first and second in the high school girl’s 55-meter state championship.
Republicans should have been thrilled for a chance to run on these issues. By a 2-to-1 margin, according to a survey by the Nevada Family Alliance, Clark County voters support keeping biological boys out of girls’ locker rooms. It’d be a chance to outreach to the Hispanic community, which led the charge against the Clark County School District’s radical transgender policies last year, too.
Instead, most elected Republicans abandoned GOP principles to support politically unpopular proposals. No matter what you label it, hypocrisy and political incompetence won’t be a winning combination.