Strategic Initiatives – Protect & Promote Equality
Enshrining Equal Rights for All New Yorkers
The fight for equality is never fully won, and the Supreme Court’s indefensible ruling in June eviscerating the fundamental rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade harshly underlined this painful truth. In the face of such a disappointing outcome, the NYCLU resolutely met the moment in our mission to advance equality, defend reproductive rights, and protect against all forms of discrimination. Following the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe in May, we and our partners compiled and released an Abortion Access Roadmap detailing how we can protect pregnant people in the state constitution, fund abortion access, increase hospital transparency and access to care, and protect providers, helpers, and patients. A major plank of the roadmap is passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would enshrine abortion rights in our state constitution, among other key advances. This achievement has long been a priority of the NYCLU, and the legislative portion of our campaign was ultimately successful, representing a tremendous victory that we need New York voters to help get across the finish line.
While New York already has strong antidiscrimination statutes on the books, the state constitution remains inadequate in its protections. The ERA will go a long way toward fixing these failures. It prohibits discrimination by the government based on ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, and sex, including a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes. The ERA also protects against any government actions that would curtail reproductive autonomy or access to reproductive health care, and the amendment for the first time explicitly includes language to clarify that discrimination based on a person’s pregnancy or pregnancy outcome is sex discrimination. This distinction is crucial in the context of the high court’s gutting of Roe and subsequent nationwide efforts to criminalize people for various pregnancy outcomes, including abortions, miscarriages, or stillbirths.
Our state constitution requires all constitutional amendments to pass the legislature twice before giving the public the opportunity to vote on the measure. The NYCLU played a key role in organizing a campaign urging the legislature to pass the amendment in a special session in June and then again in January 2023 in its second consecutive session, a critical hurdle that means the amendment can now officially be presented to New York voters in November 2024 for ratification. With true equality on the ballot, the NYCLU will continue its efforts to educate and energize voters so we can finish the work of enshrining constitutional protections to prohibit discrimination against groups that have been historically targeted—such as those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, immigrants, women, and pregnant people.
The NYCLU has always fought to protect and advance LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and the rights of pregnant people, especially as discrimination and lost opportunities hit the most vulnerable New Yorkers the hardest. We cannot allow our state to be pulled backward by the forces of inequality and injustice. Our movement toward dignity for all must maintain its momentum, as there is much work yet to be done.