Thursday 9 May 2024

Judge Tosses New York Abortion, Gender Identity Amendment from November Ballot

 A federal judge in New York threw out a proposed abortion and gender identity amendment on Tuesday that was set to appear on the November ballot.

State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Doyle found that the New York Legislature did not follow the state Constitution when it approved the amendment language before obtaining a written opinion from the attorney general.

“The Constitution is the supreme will of the People. Its amendment should be undertaken by strict adherence to the will of the People as expressed in [the state constitution].”

Democrats passed the measure, called the Equal Rights Amendment, for the second time last year, giving it the green light to go before voters in November.

The amendment, which would have needed a simply majority to pass, states:

No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this state or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, creed, religion, or sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy, be subjected to any discrimination in their civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation, or institution, or by the state or any agency or subdivision of the state, pursuant to law.

Republicans and critics of the measure were concerned the ballot measure contained “vague language” that could have prevented parents from being a part of their children’s decisions regarding sex change drugs and procedures and warned that it could allow males to play on female sports teams.

Republican state Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes filed the lawsuit challenging the ballot measure. Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party, celebrated the ruling, ABC News reported.

“In their rush to pass this amendment, the legislature never held a single hearing on the proposal, never consulted with outside constitutional experts, and falsely asserted this amendment was necessary to protect abortion rights in the state,” Cox said.

The ruling is a “blow to Democrats in New York” who were hoping to “spur voter turnout by framing key battleground House races around abortion access,” according to the report. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James said her office plans to appeal the decision. James said:

The Equal Rights Amendment was advanced to protect New Yorkers’ fundamental rights, including reproductive freedom and access to abortion care. This is a disappointing court decision, but we will appeal because New Yorkers deserve to be protected by their Constitution, especially as our basic freedoms and rights are under attack. 

In New York, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and after 24 weeks if a woman’s health is at risk.

New York is one of nearly a dozen states where lawmakers or activists have been working to place abortion on the ballot in November.

The case is Byrnes v. New York Senate, No. 778-2023 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of Livingston. 

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