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Minnesota activists rally for Equal Rights Amendment at the Capitol

Man speaks at podium to a large group of predominantly women, many of whom are holding "ERA Yes" signs.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison speaks at the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) rally at the Capitol on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024

“When are we going to be able to experience equal rights for everybody?” asked Raj

Sethuraju, a community activist and the Criminal Justice Chair of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP . 

That question was on the minds of approximately 200 people gathered in the Minnesota Capitol rotunda today ahead of the 2024 legislative session. Sporting green shirts and buttons that read “ERA YES,” they were there to demand the Equal Rights Amendment be put on the state’s 2026 ballot. 

“The passage of this law will take us closer to experiencing full abolition and full liberation” Sethuraju said.

At this point, neither the state nor the U.S. constitution provides equal protection to individuals, regardless of sex or gender. 

Minnesota ratified the ERA in 1973, ensuring equal rights “on account of sex,” but the constitutional amendment failed to garner enough state approvals before a 1982 deadline. 

The proposed state bill from 2023 aimed to offer protection irrespective of race, color, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.  Although a version of the amendment passed the Minnesota Senate, it stalled in the House during the waning hours of 2023.

“It was literally going through the house on the last day of session and then we just ran out of time,” said Curtis Johnson, president of ERA. “We want them to pass this early and then let the people of Minnesota choose.”

This year’s revised proposal includes provisions safeguarding pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive freedom.

“This version of the amendment is the strongest yet as far as protections are concerned,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to discriminate against anyone.”

Minnesota residents and activists rallied in support, including Amber Muhm, a trans community specialist with the Aliveness project. 

“This is extremely important not only for everyone in Minnesota, but for the trans community,” Muhm said. “We have the trans refuge bill, but we need something that goes beyond that in the state because the second that we have a legislative switch, they can take all our rights away.” 

Muhm believes the revised version of the bill will provide better protection for her and her family. 

“My girlfriend is here with me today and she moved here because of the trans refuge – the trans community needs that protection,” she said. “Both of my kids are trans too and this is going to secure a future of trans equity and trans rights for them as well.” 

Cynthia Wilson, President of Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, spoke at the rally in support of ERA and to simultaneously promote the African American Family Preservation (AAFP) Act

“As a Black woman, I face some form of injustice everyday,” she said. “We have work to do. So yes, we need to pass the ERA, but in addition to that, there’s plenty of other acts that need to be supported and passed.”

The AAFP Act would provide protection and stability for Black youth by preventing the unnecessary removal of children from their families.

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