Murray City Council approves resolution supporting Equal Rights Amendment
Mar 03, 2020 12:24PM
By Shaun Delliskave
Kelly Whited Jones of the Utah ERA Coalition (who claims Murray roots) spoke in favor of the city’s resolution. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Murray City Council approved a resolution supporting the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) at the Jan. 21 city council meeting. City Councilor Kat Martinez sponsored the resolution in advance of southwest Murray Rep. Karen Kwan’s statehouse resolution to endorse the amendment in the Legislature.
“Utah has a strong history in the fight for gender equality. Women in Utah were the first in the nation to vote, and Utah was the first state to elect a woman as a state senator. The fight for gender equality is not new, but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated or anywhere near finished,” Martinez said. “I want my son and daughters to have equal opportunities and protections under the law. A resolution here in Murray, at the municipal level, tells our community we value our mothers here in Murray as much as our fathers.”
Not all who attended the city council meeting agreed with Martinez, as the council chambers were filled beyond capacity. City Councilor Brett Hales, who chaired the meeting, adjusted the agenda to allow for citizen comments before the vote on the resolution.
The resolution attracted not only Murray residents but leaders from the conservative Utah Eagle Forum and the Utah ERA Coalition. Of the 24 people who spoke during the citizen comment period, about half were identified as current Murray residents.
“Women who have done so well here in the state of Utah because we have the right amendment, and we don’t want to replace this amendment with a federal. Why would we give up our state’s rights to the federal government by passing the Equal Rights Amendment?” Gayle Ruzicka from the Utah Eagle Forum said.
Many in favor of the resolution came to the meeting dressed in white with purple and green sashes, outfits which were reminiscent of suffragettes a century ago who championed the amendment giving women the right to vote.
Rep. Kwan sent a message to the council stating, “In Utah, we have a great early history of women’s rights, so many people … don’t know what’s written in Utah’s Constitution is the same notion of equality, the same inclusions and guarantees for women, that the ERA would provide for in our federal Constitution. We are living in an ERA way in an ERA world right now and in Utah. The ERA won’t change anything in Utah or Murray because we already have these rights, so there is no reason to fear, no reason to not ratify, but every reason to do it.”
Some comments made to the council contested that this resolution was a waste of time, stating that the deadline for ratification was 1982. Congress has the ability to extend the deadline, such as it did with 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. And, the US House of Representatives did just that on Feb. 14. The vote to remove the deadline was approved with favorable votes from Utah Representatives Ben McAdams (who represents Murray) and John Curtis (only one of five Republicans who voted in favor of the deadline removal).
A non-scientific poll conducted by the Murray Journal on Facebook showed that respondents voted in favor of the ERA 71 to 31. After reviewing the data, not all respondents could be identified as Murray residents, but after discounting non-residents, the poll still approximately showed nearly the same margin of support of 60 to 21.
Several residents who addressed the council felt that the focus on the resolution was inappropriate, distracting the council from more pressing Murray-centric issues.
“My question for the council is if this is a grassroots effort within Murray? I don’t think there is,” former candidate for city council Adam Thompson said. “This was never brought up one time during the election season. So, is this activism, or is this self-service? It seems more activism and self-service than it actually is a public service.”
After the public comment period, each city councilor deliberated and explained their vote, not typical for most city council voting. The resolution passed with four ayes, zero nays, and one abstention.