A fight for equal rights


Aishiki Nag

The 2021 Women’s March protesting to codify reproductive healthcare and gender affirming care.

By Aishiki Nag, Staff Writer

     During the 2023 legislative session, states across the country have worked on passing legislation limiting access to reproductive healthcare, blocking access to gender-affirming care, and restricting state Title IX interpretations. Oregon is working to be different. The Senate has recently opened a hearing for SJR 33, the progressive constitutional amendment to enumerate examples of rights and enshrine assurance to equal rights within the state constitution. 

     The proposed amendment would ensure that every Oregonian would have the freedom to make personal healthcare decisions and have the right to essential healthcare including contraceptives and abortion. It would also explicitly remove the ban on Oregon’s same-gender marriage which was implemented two decades ago and would ensure that everyone can marry who they love regardless of sexual preferences. In the legislative statement by the ACLU of Oregon the proposed ballot measure would enshrine, “ [that] every Oregonian, regardless of sex, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, is afforded the same protections to live a life free of government actions that discriminate —from housing and employment to public accommodation to state services”. 

     The historical context of this bill originated in the 1970s Feminist Movement. The Equal Rights Amendment movement in the 1970s, led by leaders such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Abzug, formally enshrined equal rights regardless of sex in the US Constitution. This fight for the ERA had collected bipartisan support through both houses of Congress, and both major political parties, and was favored by presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. However, there was massive opposition led by Phyllis Schlafly, who had mobilized many conservative women to create S.T.O.P. ERA (Stop Taking Our Privileges Equal Rights Amendment) and revoked state support. The amendment had failed and fell short of 3 state votes. 

     In Oregon, there is similar conservative pushback against the constitutional amendment from organized groups such as Right to Life, Oregon Catholic Conference, and the Muslim Religious Freedom Alliance. 

     One of the testifiers had written, “This would put citizens in unsafe situations and deny people the right to recognize the objective material reality being presented before their eyes.”

     Proponents of the joint resolution are the ACLU of Oregon, Planned Parenthood, American Association of University Women of Oregon, Urban League of Portland, Faith Leaders of Oregon for Reproductive Justice, SEIU Oregon, and Oregon Law Center. There were also 58 more community members who had testified in support of this resolution, than those that were opposed. 

     In a statement by the ACLU of Oregon, they stated, “Simply put, this amendment will make it clear in the Oregon Constitution that each of us has the rights and freedoms to make deeply personal decisions about abortion and reproductive health care, gender identity and related health care, and marriage, free from undue political interference and discriminatory actions by the government”. 

     Depending on if the bill is passed through the House and Senate, the proposed ballot measure will then be given to the voters as a special approval or rejection on the same date as the next regular general election.