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The Equal Rights Amendment returns to Utah's Capitol Hill

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Posted at 4:00 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 18:06:43-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Equal Rights Amendment is returning to Utah's Capitol Hill, reigniting a political battle.

Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 8, which would have Utah ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The language of the ERA states: "The right of citizens of the United States shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." As more states ratify it, the United States Congress would consider it for the U.S. Constitution.

Utah's own constitution includes language that guarantees women and men are treated equally. It's been that way since 1896. But the U.S. Constitution does not.

In an interview with FOX 13 on Friday, Sen. Riebe said the resolution wasn't just pushing for equal rights for women but all Utah families. She said women should be entitled to equal pay and equal rights. She also pointed to advances recently for women — including the election of Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Lt. Gov. Henderson signaled her support for the ERA.

"I personally support ratifying the ERA, but I also understand some of the narratives around it have created an uphill battle. Regardless of whether or not it passes, I’m going to continue to focus on proactively implementing good policies that will make a measurable difference in the lives of Utah women," she said in a statement to FOX 13.

But a similar resolution introduced last year by Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, went nowhere on Capitol Hill. Despite public support, lawmakers refused to consider it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a powerful force on Capitol Hill, opposed it and the resolution never got a hearing. Social conservative groups like the Utah Eagle Forum also oppose it.

Utah was a cultural flashpoint for the ERA in the 1970s and '80s, when the Latter-day Saint church vocally opposed it and was the subject of protests around Temple Square. But supporters of the legislation say times have changed and the Utah State Legislature should pass the resolution.

Sen Riebe told FOX 13 she intended to bring the bill back each year until it passes.

"We are not going to stop picking this baton up and running with it. It’s not just equal rights for women, it’s family rights," she said.