New York lawmakers advance Equal Rights Amendment that would protect abortion, LGBTQ rights in state Constitution

ALBANY — New York is one step closer to enshrining LGBTQ and reproductive rights in the state Constitution.

The Democrat-led Legislature on Tuesday approved a state-level Equal Rights Amendment that will go before voters next year and offer broad protections against discrimination.

The proposal would amend the state Constitution’s Equal Protection Amendment by prohibiting discrimination based on national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex, including reproductive health care and autonomy as well as pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes.

The move comes less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court rolled back federal abortion protections by overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

“Days after what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe, we are affirming yet again that we will not allow New Yorkers to be pulled backward, we will not allow the progress we have made on reproductive freedom to be undone,” said Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).

The New York State Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause already prohibits discrimination based on race, color, creed, and religion. Abortion rights in the Empire State are protected under state law thanks to the 2019 Reproductive Health Act.

After the nation’s highest court reversed a half century of protections for abortion, several states swiftly instituted bans on reproductive services for women. Lawmakers in New York believe enshrining protections in the Constitution is more important than ever.

“We have witnessed the obliteration by our nation’s highest judicial tribunal of 50 years of federal protection of the rights of women to determine the future of their bodies,” said Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright (D-Manhattan). “As the federal courts turn the clock back on Civil Rights, Human Rights and Voting Rights, we cannot and must not stand by while freedom of choice and freedom from discrimination are so outrageously denied.”

Changes to New York’s Constitution must be approved by two successively elected state Legislatures before it can be ratified by voters. Lawmakers first approved the Equal Rights Amendment last June.

In the wake of the overturning of Roe last year, New York lawmakers also approved several new laws protecting abortion providers from extradition, arrest and legal proceedings in other states, and barring medical misconduct charges for performing reproductive health care.

Gov. Hochul, speaking at a rally held by Planned Parenthoods of New York earlier Tuesday, championed New York’s actions and said the Empire State will be a beacon for abortion protections as other state’s move to limit access.

“Suit up for battle, my friends. Yes, we’re protected here in the State of New York. We’re going to enshrine it in our constitution ... but let’s give hope to our sisters all across America that we have their backs,” she said. “You come here; we’ll help you. We’ll support you. This is your safe haven.”