Equal Rights Amendment dies in final hours of legislative session

The Minnesota House passed the ERA, but the Minnesota Senate did not take up the proposed amendment before Sunday's 11:59 p.m. end-of-session deadline.

House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth and a group of Republican legislators address a huge crowd that gathered in the Capitol rotunda to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment. (Alpha News)

After months of discussion, intrigue, and fierce criticism, the so-called Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is officially dead — for now.

Over the weekend, Democratic legislators in the Minnesota House passed the ERA, but the Minnesota Senate did not take up the proposed amendment before Sunday’s 11:59 p.m. end-of-session deadline. Given the unlikelihood of a special session later this year, the ERA will not be taken up before voters elect a new Minnesota House of Representatives in November of this year.

Contained in SF 37, the ERA has been a closely-watched topic throughout this legislative session.

Had the ERA been passed by both the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate, it would have been placed on the 2026 ballot to be voted on by Minnesota citizens.

If approved by voters, the following text would have been placed in the Constitution of the State of Minnesota:

“All persons shall be guaranteed equal rights under the laws of this state. The
state shall not discriminate against any person in intent or effect on account of one or more of the following: (a) race; (b) color; (c) national origin; (d) ancestry; (e) disability; or (f) sex, including but not limited to: (i) making and effectuating decisions about all matters relating to one’s own pregnancy or decision whether to become or remain pregnant; (ii) gender identity or gender expression; or (iii) sexual orientation.”

While the above text is the language that would have been placed in the Minnesota Constitution, the below text is the question voters would have been asked to vote on in 2026:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to say that all persons shall be guaranteed equal rights under the laws of this state, and shall not be discriminated against on account of race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, or sex, including pregnancy, gender, and sexual orientation?”

Given that the language submitted to voters is different than the language eventually placed in the constitution, many have said the amendment is outright deceptive. In particular, opponents have said the ERA seeks to deceive voters on the subject of abortion.

ERA opponents have said the proposed amendment would enshrine unlimited abortion in the Minnesota Constitution. Those same opponents have said the amendment language does not clearly communicate this to voters. As such, many pro-life individuals and groups have warned that the ERA is designed to hoodwink voters into supporting a pro-abortion amendment they do not actually support.

A recent KSTP/SurveyUSA poll found that 64% of Minnesotans believe the issue of abortion should be separated from the Equal Rights Amendment and determined in a different ballot question.

Additionally, the poll found that 51% of Minnesotans do not approve of the Protect Reproduction Options (PRO) Act. Passed by Democrats in 2023, the PRO Act legalized abortion in Minnesota through all nine months of pregnancy with no restrictions. According to the KSTP/SurveyUSA poll, only a little more than one-third of Minnesotans approve of the PRO Act.

Republican lawmakers and religious groups have also expressed concerns that religion is not an included category in the proposed amendment. ERA critics say this omission could create a situation where claims of religious discrimination take a backseat to other interests.

During debate on the ERA, Democrats disagreed with this argument, saying religion is already protected under the Minnesota Constitution.

Furthermore, Republicans warned that the definition of “state” in the ERA could include not just state entities, but any organization that receives state dollars. Questions surrounding the legal implications of the phrase “The state shall not discriminate against any person in intent or effect” were also raised by GOP lawmakers.

After debating the ERA through Friday and Saturday, the amendment was passed by the Minnesota House in a 68-62 vote. In the closely divided Minnesota Senate (34 Democrats, 33 Republicans), the ERA was not taken up in the waning hours of the 2024 legislative session.

While the ERA appears to be dead for now, the proposed amendment could make a return in subsequent legislative sessions in 2025, 2026, or beyond.

After the ERA failed to pass, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, a supporter of the proposed amendment, spoke about the future of the ERA in Minnesota.

“What’s next for the Equal Rights Amendment from the House perspective is we have an election,” said the Speaker. “We’re all going out running for reelection and the next legislature will address this issue.”

In 2024, every member of the Minnesota House of Representatives is up for election. Currently, the Democrats have a 70-64 majority. Democrats also control the Minnesota Senate and the governorship, yet neither of these entities will be on the ballot this November.


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.