“It’s time for federal politicians to realize that equal rights is popular, that it gets people to the polls, that it crosses party lines.”
Twenty-six states already have state-level Equal Rights Amendments. Advocates are fighting to make Nevada the 27th by passing the most comprehensive ERA in the country. Ballot Question 1, which voters will decide on in next month’s midterms, would codify the Equal Rights Amendment into Nevada’s state constitution, guaranteeing rights regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.
If passed, the Nevada ERA would be the first time that an equal rights amendment explicitly protects people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
“That’s revolutionary in the United States,” says Kate Kelly, the Nevada organizer for Vote Equality, a nationwide grassroots organization that promotes equal rights for all. Kelly notes that no enacted ERA in the U.S. explicitly covers sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
A large and diverse coalition of groups called Nevadans for Equal Rights, which includes Nevada NOW, Planned Parenthood, Silver State Equality, Battle Born Progress, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) and others, are working together on the amendment. The coalition includes reproductive rights organizations; LGBTQ+ and immigration rights groups; and unions, which put the ERA ballot measure in their voting guides that go out to hundreds of thousands of voters.
“There’s this really interesting coalition of folks here, everyone working together on this one ballot question, which I don’t think happens a lot,” says Kelly.
And it’s not just progressives showing support, says Kelly. “I go to farmers markets. I go to festivals. I go to parades. I go all across Nevada, and I see all kinds of people supporting the ERA and treating it like it’s a no brainer. And not just the usual suspects. It’s registered Republicans, old white men. That’s really exciting.”
Lawmakers are also working to turn out the vote for the ERA in Nevada, including Sen. Pat Spearman who sponsored legislation in 2017 to ratify the national ERA.
Spearman, who was the first openly lesbian member in the Nevada Legislature, is now running for mayor of North Las Vegas.
“Nevada is this kind of wild west place where some really surprising and incredibly progressive things take place,” said Kelly. “They jump-started the federal ERA and resurrected it in 2017.”
Then in 2019, the Nevada legislature became the first female-majority state legislature in the nation with women holding 52 percent of the seats. That year, Spearman joined with the female Majority Leader Senator Nicole Cannizzaro to sponsor the legislation to put the Nevada ERA on the ballot. Two years later, in 2021, women won a whopping 60 percent of seats in the legislature and passed the second reading of the ERA measure.
“It makes a huge difference to have feminist women in office. And it makes a huge difference to have a feminist Majority Leader in your legislature,” said Kelly.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak showed up to support the ERA as well.
Young people with Generation Ratify and Advocates for Youth from across the country and the state are showing up to spread the word about the ERA in Nevada. Students of Professor Autoosa Kojoori at the College of Southern Nevada have volunteered in droves after she gave them extra credit to work on the ballot initiative. “They have written hundreds of handwritten postcards and marched with us. They’re doing a huge amount of work,” said Kelly.
Above: Generation Ratify youth organize for the ERA in Nevada (photos courtesy of Kate Kelly)
Kelly hopes that the successful passage of the Nevada ERA will inspire passage of other state ERAs in New York, Maine and elsewhere, as well as recognition of the federal ERA.
“It’s time for federal politicians to realize that equal rights is popular, that it gets people to the polls, that it crosses party lines,” says Kelly. “If it’s wildly popular and passes with flying colors in Nevada—a state that is hardly solid red or blue—I think it can really ramp up enthusiasm and momentum for the federal ERA.”
The most recent Nevada Independent poll and a poll from Suffolk University both show voters supporting the ERA at around 70 percent, with even around 60 percent of Republicans in support.
“I think this is the most important thing on any ballot in November in the entire country, because it’s a permanent amendment. It will completely revolutionize constitutional law and help us jumpstart the movement for the federal ERA,” said Kelly.
For more information, see Nevada ERA FAQs.
To support the Nevada ERA:
- People living in Nevada: ledge with Nevada NOW to vote yes on Ballot Question 1 and volunteer.
- People living out of state: volunteer with Vote Equality to write postcards, phone bank or text bank.
- Everyone: donate to support Nevadans for Equal Rights.