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The Tale of Two Resolutions

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Posted 2/13/19 (Wed)

The Tale of Two Resolutions

NDWN Supports House Concurrent Resolution 3009 and Opposes Resolution 3037

North Dakota's 66th Legislative Assembly is in full swing, and concurrent resolutions stemming from our state House of Representatives are sending mixed messages about the role of women in economic and political life.


House Concurrent Resolution 3009 recognizes the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment provided women the right to vote although admittedly, many women of color had to wait for subsequent acts to be able to vote. Resolution 3009, which was heard in legislative committee on Monday, is sponsored by a bipartisan, gender-diverse group of state legislators, including primary bill sponsor Shannon Roers Jones (R District 46), Mary Johnson (R District 45), Emily O'Brien (R District 42), Brandy Pyle (R District 22), and Cynthia Schreiber-Beck (R District 25). The sponsoring state senators are July Lee (R District 13), Erin Oban (D District 35), Jim Roers (R District 46), and Jessica Unruh (R District 33). The North Dakota Women's Network, given its advocacy emphasis on women's involvement in all political processes, endorses House Concurrent Resolution 3009. The resolution has received a Do Pass recommendation, with Reps. Rick Becker and Luke Simons being the only House Judiciary Committee members to vote against it. 


On the other end of the spectrum of attitudes about women's involvement in economic and political life is House Concurrent Resolution 3037. This resolution claims to "clarify" that the Equal Rights Amendment missed a 1979 deadline (and a contentious extension of the deadline to 1982) to become ratified into the U.S. Constitution, and that this in turn ostensibly nullifies the 1975 ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by the 44th ND Legislative Assembly. The Equal Rights Amendment is designed to ensure equal legal rights for all U.S. citizens regardless of sex via the U.S. Constitution. The single-party, exclusively male sponsors from the House are Chuck Damschen, the bill’s primary sponsor (R District 10), David Monson (R District 10), Mark Owens (R District 17), and Don Vigesaa (R District 23). From the state Senate, sponsors include David Clemens (R District 16), Robert Erbele (R District 28), and David Rust (R District 2).


HCR 3037 is contrary to actions by other states across the nation that continue to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment. Thirty-eight states are needed to nationally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. In the last two years, Nevada and Illinois have both ratified it, bringing the grand total to 37 – one state away from securing constitutional ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 


If supporters of ND's House Concurrent Resolution 3037 get their way, then the nullification of ND's 1975 ratification will bring the number of ratified states back to 36 or – depending on your view five states’ prior ratifications – 31 states. The resolution argues without evidence that American "women and men have achieved equal legal rights through alternate means in the absence of the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment." It also argues that "in today's world, it is not entirely certain how federal judges would construe the word 'sex' as contained in the proposed 1972 Equal Rights Amendment," which vaguely sounds like the resolution's sponsors are taking a swipe at the rights of transgender people.


The most ironic aspect of Resolution 3037 is that a dozen years ago, the Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 3032 “affirming the equal application of the United States Constitution to all citizens through the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment; declaring Friday, March 9, 2007, North Dakota Equal Rights Amendment Recognition Day; and encouraging a recommitment to the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in all states and final passage in Congress.” See tinyurl.com/ERA-2007-Resolution for the original resolution text. When asked, Rep. Damschen explained that he was completely unfamiliar with Resolution 3032. He also reported that no women were asked to cosponsor his resolution.


The North Dakota Women's Network opposes House Concurrent Resolution 3037. The idea that gender- and sex-based disparities have been reduced in more recent decades – thus ostensibly rendering the Equal Rights Amendment irrelevant – is very flawed. Women's rights are continuously under threat and we need legal and constitutional safeguards to protect the gains we have made and to continue the requisite progress toward gender- and sex-based equality.


We encourage members and allies of the North Dakota Women's Network to contact their legislators to express their support for Shannon Roers Jones' House Concurrent Resolution 3009 and their disapproval of Chuck Damschen's House Concurrent Resolution 3037. We also encourage our members and allies to attend the House Government & Veteran Affairs Committee hearing for Resolution 3037 at 9am on Friday in the Fort Union Room of the ND State Capitol.


Through these philosophically opposed resolutions, we have a chance to show whether North Dakotans value the full inclusion of all citizens in all aspects of our society regardless of sex or gender. Let's show the nation that North Dakota is on the right side of history on these issues, just as we were in 2007.