New York is decades behind states from California to Colorado to Connecticut that have stronger and broader constitutional protections than our constitution provides.

The New York State Constitution only protects people from discrimination based on race, color, creed and religion based on the Equal Protection clause in Article I, Section 11 of New York’s Constitution.

Shockingly, this protection doesn’t explicitly protect “women,” “sexual orientation,” “identity,” “national origin” or “the disabled.”  This lack of inclusion is why the State Courts originally turned down gay marriage.  In a 2006 decision the Court of Appeals said that nothing in New York’s state constitution requires the state to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Our state constitution doesn’t grant Equal Rights, just Equal Protection. EffectiveNY has released a 60-second ad entitled “Shocking” that begins a public awareness effort.

In “Shocking”, regular New Yorkers express surprise at discovering that women, LGBT people and the disabled do not have equal rights in New York’s Constitution and call for that injustice to end through the passage of an “Equality for All Amendment.”

EffectiveNY is aiming to bring that injustice to an end by passing an “Equality for All Amendment” in Albany.  New York’s Equal Rights Amendment should have expanded wording that goes beyond the original Equal Rights Amendment and set a standard for every other state.

The specific amendment we suggest is as follows:

  1. Equality of rights shall not be denied or abridged because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, gender, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, other immutable or ascriptive characteristic, or like grounds for discrimination, exclusion, or disadvantage, by any other person or by any firm, corporation, or institution, or by the state or any agency or subdivision of the state.
  2. The protection against discrimination afforded by this section is self-executing. To that end, equal rights for purposes of this section extend to every person whose protection against public and private discrimination is needed to ensure an inclusive society with equal opportunity for personal fulfillment and respect for everyone in New York in all their diversity.
  3. Nothing herein shall be used to invalidate a law, program, or activity that is protected or required under Subsections (a) or (b) above. To the extent that enforcement of any part of this section is finally declared invalid as preempted by federal law, whether on constitutional or statutory grounds, or finally determined to result in a loss of federal funding, the State may by law provide that the enforcement of this section will be curtailed to the minimum extent necessary to avoid such preemption or loss of funding.

Equal Rights would have a major impact on a wide array of discrimination cases.  For example, according to legal expert Linda Wharton, an Equal Rights Amendment “would mean that those fighting sex discrimination would no longer have to prove discrimination, but instead those who discriminate would have to prove that they did not violate the Constitution.”

“At this critical moment when civil rights are under attack by the federal government, it is imperative that New York step up and be a leader for the nation in equal rights,” said Heidi Sieck, the chief operating officer of and a national leader in the fight for women’s rights. “Passing an Equality for All amendment to New York State’s Constitution isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s an absolute necessity in this day and age. I strongly believe that when New Yorkers realize that well over 51 percent of us don’t have equal rights, we will rise up and demand an immediate end to this injustice.”

“EffectiveNY is committed to ending the dysfunction in Albany and making New York’s Constitution and our state government a proud model for the rest of the nation to follow,” said EffectiveNY’s founder Bill Samuels. “It is shocking and appalling that New York’s Constitution does not grant women, LGBT people and the disabled equal rights. The time for our state to pass an Equality for All amendment is now.”

Link to “Shocking” ad: