PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey is not in favor of Arizona becoming the state that puts the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution.
Asked about the issue Monday, Ducey said Arizona already is “a land of opportunity” for all, including women. “I don’t know that that’s something that’s necessary for our state to be involved in at this time,” the Republican governor said.
“I think if you look at the employment numbers, if you look at the number of legislators we have by percentage, the number of governors that we’ve had across the country, the success in income growth across all spectrums inside the economy and our population, you’d see positive trends,” he said.
“And that’s something I’m going to continue to focus on.”
Technically speaking, Ducey has no say: Ratification is subject only to state House and Senate approval.
The governor, however, has the constitutional ability to call lawmakers into special session and get them to focus on an issue of his choosing. Ducey has no plans to do so.
He isn’t alone in his opposition. GOP leaders have used procedural maneuvers in each of the last two years to block the issue from getting to the House floor.
What has made the issue immediately relevant is that Illinois lawmakers voted late last month to ratify the amendment. That means action by one more state, a 38th state to ratify, is needed to put it into the Constitution.
The text of the amendment says equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex. It also would empower Congress to enact laws to enforce the provision. A change in the Constitution requires ratification by three-fourths of the states.
During floor debate last year, state Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, complained that her legislation to put Arizona on record in favor of the amendment never got a hearing. So she made a motion that the measure be brought to the full House for an immediate vote.
The maneuver caught GOP leaders by surprise.
But rather than simply allow a vote, Speaker J.D. Mesnard made a procedural motion to instead have the House recess. That was approved along party lines, denying Democrats the vote they sought — and effectively keeping Republicans from having to go on the record on whether they support or oppose the amendment.
Even if Arizona lawmakers were to go along, there’s the question of whether the action is too late: The deadline imposed by Congress to approve it was 1982.
But there is a legal argument that Congress, which had sent the measure to the states in 1972, has the power to retroactively extend that deadline.
There is a provision in the Arizona Constitution that bars discrimination or preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. That covers public employment, public education or public contracting.