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Measure 89 provides equality for women

Why is it important to vote YES on Measure 89?

Some Oregon newspapers have left out the legal opinion of four former Oregon Supreme Court Justices that states why we should vote YES on 89. Here are the facts and why you should vote YES on 89.

(1) Women are not equal in the Oregon Constitution.

(2) Women are not equal in Oregon case law as there is an exception for “biological differences.”

(3) Women are not equal in the United States Constitution.

Measure 89 will establish state policy banning discrimination based on sex. The language of Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution, written in 1857, has not changed. 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.

Measure 89 will provide momentum for women’s equality in the U.S. Constitution by engaging all those who are still working on the federal ERA to follow Oregon’s lead. After 91 years the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has still not been added to the U.S. Constitution, even though it has been introduced in Congress every single year since 1923. It passed in Congress once in the 70s but fell three states short of the deadline for ratification.

The U.S. Constitution still does not adequately protect women. "Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't.” US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (2011).

Four former Oregon Supreme Court Justices took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter in favor of Measure 89 to debunk arguments made by detractors. Their letter from June 2014 signed by former Justices DeMuniz, Gillette, Riggs and Van Hoomissen made clear that women do not have the strongest protection in the Oregon Constitution. They said “… no current provision in the Constitution expressly provides those protections …Instead, the protections available to women are present as a result of case law … Measure 89 would remove the biological differences exception.” This is why women will finally have full equality under measure 89.

One detractor hypothesizes others’ rights could be affected by passage of an Oregon ERA. The justices stated: “The text of the ERA itself provides that nothing in it will diminish the rights of any group under any provision of the Oregon Constitution. … Oregon’s Office of Legislative Counsel has also issued opinions further supporting that nothing in ERA proposal will diminish the rights of any other group. At least 22 states have adopted equal rights amendments in their constitutions. Not one of the ‘concerns’ voiced by [detractors] has ever come to pass in those states.”

The Justices concluded their letter with another reference to the detractors of the measure: “They are mistaken to oppose passage of the Oregon ERA. 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.”

Former Appeals Court judge David Schuman has endorsed a yes vote on measure 89, stating “there is no guarantee that future Supreme Court justices will refrain from reinterpreting Article 1, Section 20, in such a way as to diminish protections against gender discrimination.”

On five separate occasions, the Oregonian Editor, Harvey Scott was against women gaining the right to vote even though his sister was Abigail Scott Duniway, the leader of the suffragist movement of the Pacific Northwest and the first woman to vote in Oregon in 1912. But the women prevailed.

Measure 89 has broad bipartisan support including legislators from Southern Oregon and all over the state. Our list of endorsers includes former Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer, the Honorable Norma Paulus, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, Congressman Peter DeFazio, State Sen. Arnie Roblan, YWCA, Boys and Girls Club of Southern Oregon, Oregon Business Association, League of Women Voters, Democratic Party of Oregon, Clackamas County Republican Party, AFSCME and many more you can see on www.VoteERA.org.

Please join me in voting “YES” on Measure 89 for Oregon’s women and girls to finally have equality in our Oregon Constitution.

Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo is chief petitioner for Measure 89 and founder and president of VoteERA.org (www.VoteERA.org).