Opposing sides face off in Minnesota Equal Rights Amendment debate

Opposing sides face off in Minnesota Equal Rights Amendment debate

Opposing sides face off in Minnesota Equal Rights Amendment debate

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Supporters and opponents of a far-reaching Equal Rights Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution flocked to the State Capitol ahead of crucial votes aimed at putting it on the 2026 ballot.

However, the state House adjourned without voting on the bill late Monday after debate on unrelated bills ran out the clock. It wasn't immediately clear when the measure would be taken up on the floor.

The amendment would guarantee some of the nation's broadest protections of abortion and LGBTQ+ rights if it is approved by both chambers this session and then by voters in two years. Pro-life activists and conservative religious groups are campaigning to defeat it, but Democrats hold enough seats to pass what has been a top party priority.

The amendment's wording would prohibit the state from discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability or sex — including gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. It does not include the word “abortion,” but that's meant to be protected by prohibiting the state from discriminating against a person “making and effectuating decisions about all matters relating to one’s own pregnancy or decision whether to become or remain pregnant.”

The Rev. Doug Donley, pastor of University Baptist Church in Minneapolis, showed up in rainbow colors, holding a pro-ERA sign. Transgender people “have always been part of the church. They’ve often had to hide the reality of who they are,” Donley said. “Church ought to be a place where people can be who they are fully.”

Putting up red signs around the rotunda, David Mennicke, a music professor in St. Paul, wore a red shirt saying “NO CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to kill unborn babies.”

“A child in the womb is a human being at an early stage of development,” Mennicke said. The ERA “would enshrine in the constitution that this child is not worthy of life and has no rights. I’m speaking out for the rights of those who have no voice.”

His wife, Katherine Mennicke, a retired special education teacher, said the kinds of children she worked with are often targeted for abortion. “I can’t support that — because I know them and love them. And they have wonderful things to contribute.”