Vermont state senator to propose constitutional amendments

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BURLINGTON, Vt. A Vermont state senator is expecting to introduce two separate constitutional amendments in the next two weeks.

Senator Ginny Lyons said one specifies equal treatment for large groups of people. The other protects what she calls "reproductive liberties."

Sally Ballin came to the discussion at Main Street Landing to learn more about the new attempt at an equal rights amendment.

"I'm really interested that it's been given another try," Ballin said.

Ballin was involved when a similar effort failed back in the 1980s.

Cary Brown, the executive director for the Vermont Commission on Women, said a lot has changed since then. Some of the same concerns don't apply. For example, gay marriage is now legal in Vermont.

"There was also a lot of fear mongering around the spread of Aids. I guess, I can't explain the logic of that one to you," Brown said.

Lawyer Michelle Farkas said an equal rights protection amendment isn't a new idea. She said about 24 states already have this in place. From her point of view, it would be better than what Vermonters rely on now.

"You have legislation that is sort of equality in islands. There are areas where they are not afforded equality, and so this gives the overarching legislation and it's an amendment," Farkas said.

Lyons said it is critical to have constitutional security.

"Laws are mutable. A new legislature comes in. A new governor comes in. A new president comes in. And the laws of our state can change," Lyons said.

Amending the state constitution is a long process. If the House of Representatives and Senate approve the two proposals, the earliest voters could have their say is 2022.