Equal Rights Amendment for women in NY may protect illegal immigrants, men in women’s sports

Unintended consequences? The New York Equal Rights Amendment could open the "door for illegal immigrants to have the same rights as citizens," civil rights attorney Bobbie Anne Cox said.
Sophie Kelly speaks during the Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker Equal Rights Amendment Celebration with The ERA Coalition at The Campbell Bar on March 10, 2020 in New York City.

Democrats and liberal organizations are promoting the New York Equal Rights Amendment for the state constitution as beneficial for women and reproductive rights while critics argue that it could prevent discrimination against illegal immigrants, biological men in women’s sports, pedophiles, and weaken parental rights.

In November, New York voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution with the ERA, which advocates claim will protect women’s, reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights. However, at least one civil rights attorney says that the amendment will open the door to protecting illegal immigrants, biological men in women’s sports, and pedophiles from discrimination.

The legislation for placing the ERA on the ballot began after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing states to create abortion restrictions. After the state legislature passed the proposal twice, per state constitutional requirements, the amendment will be on the November ballot for voters to decide on.

The amendment reads: “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 [or], religion, OR SEX, INCLUDING SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, GENDER EXPRESSION, PREGNANCY, PREGNANCY OUTCOMES, AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE AND AUTONOMY, be subjected to any discrimination in [his or her] 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.”

The New York Constitution already protects against discrimination based on “race, color, creed or religion.”

New York Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright (D), who is the lead sponsor of the ERA, wrote last month regarding the amendment, “[T]he fact is we need broader safeguards against discrimination. Our state statutes in place today can be superseded significantly more easily than overturning the enshrining of equal rights in our state constitution. We stand at a critical moment for equal rights. As courts and legislatures across America strip away women’s rights, harm LGBTQ+ individuals, and create challenges for people with disabilities, the time has come for New York to legally recognize the equality of all its residents.”

After the proposal passed the state legislature last year, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said in a statement, "As other states take extreme measures to stymie progress and roll back reproductive rights, New York will always lead the way to combat discrimination in all forms and protect abortion access.”

Liberal groups such as Planned Parenthood, the NAACP New York Conference, the League of Women Voters, and the New York Civil Liberties Union are all working together in an effort to raise $20 million for a statewide campaign to encourage voters to cast their ballots for the ERA in November, which is backed by Hochul and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, which supports the ERA, says on its website, “the ERA would prevent the State from: implementing a state abortion ban; stopping state funding for abortion via Medicaid; banning private insurance coverage of abortion; prosecuting or criminalizing miscarriage; adding medically unnecessary burdens on patients or facilities.”

Bobbie Anne Cox, a civil rights lawyer, told Just the News on Wednesday that the ERA “could prevent illegal immigrants from discrimination in the state.”

She noted that the amendment prevents discrimination “based on national origin,” and as New York is fighting in the courts to enforce a law allowing non-citizens to vote, from a legal standpoint, it opens a “whole door for illegal immigrants to have the same rights as citizens.”

If that happens, then illegal immigrants can’t be denied a job for their immigration status or welfare benefits, Cox added.

“It’s very concerning because it erases the lines between a citizen and someone who’s here illegally,” as there’s “no longer delineation of what constitutes a citizen,” she said.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform told Just the News on Wednesday, "National origin and immigration status are not the same thing. Countless federal and local laws prohibit discrimination based on national origin. However, the law does draw distinctions in many instances between citizens and noncitizens, and between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants."

The ERA would also prohibit discrimination “against someone based on their gender preference or sex identity,” which could allow “someone who’s biologically male” to play on women’s sports teams, Cox explained.

The Coalition to Protect Kids told The New York Post regarding the ERA, “Schools would be required to permit biological males to compete on girls’ sports teams if voters approve this amendment.”

Cox also said that the ERA could infringe on parental rights since it prohibits discrimination based on age.

“If you’re a parent and your minor child says they want to change their sex, take hormone blockers, or start taking psychiatric drugs, and you’re not allowed to discriminate against your child because of this language,” then the “child, no matter the age, is allowed to do whatever they want and the parent will lose any sort of parental control,” she said.

Cox asked if statutory rape laws would be affected by the ERA. With the amendment, the state constitution would “now have language that says you can’t discriminate based on age,” so what would happen if an adult had “sex with a minor?” she said.

The Coalition to Protect Kids also said that laws with age requirements for drinking alcohol or elder abuse could be weakened by the ERA.

New Yorkers for Equal Rights didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The group told The New York Post that the ERA won't weaken parental rights.

“These claims simply aren’t true,” Sasha Ahuja, campaign director of New Yorkers for Equal Rights, told The New York Post. “This amendment is about making sure our fundamental rights and reproductive freedoms are protected and never at risk of becoming a political football.”