New York equal rights proposal draws criticism


(The Center Square) — Critics are slamming a New York ballot initiative they argue would allow children to get transgender surgery without their parent’s consent and allow biological males to compete on girls’ sports teams.

The proposed Equal Rights Amendment, which was put on the Nov. 5 ballot by the state Legislature, would codify abortion rights in the state Constitution and expand protections against discrimination based on race, religion and gender.

The ballot question would ask New York voters if they support updating the Constitution to declare that people can’t be denied rights based on their “ethnicity, national origin, age, and disability” or sex, which the bill says includes “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy.”

Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who pushed for the amendment, said it comes in response to the “horrifying” and “extreme” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which provided federal protections for abortion.

“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,” Hochul said in a statement at the time.

However, critics argue that the measure is too vaguely worded and could be used to block parents from having a say on whether their children undergo gender reassignment surgery while opening the door to biological males in women’s sports.

The group Coalition to Protect Kids, a ballot committee formed in opposition to the referendum, says it would “strip the legal rights of parents with school-age children to know about crucially important things happening with their kids, including controversial gender transformation procedures.

“Schools would be required to permit biological males to compete on girls’ sports teams if voters approve this amendment,” the group says.

A video posted on the group’s campaign website claims that the proposed constitutional amendment would, if approved, allow teachers to help a young girl “try life as a boy” without her parent’s knowledge.

“Do you think that’s OK?” the group said. “Should minors have the right to irreversible surgical and non-surgical transgender procedures without parental notice or consent?”

The group, which has dubbed the proposal the Parent Replacement Act, argues that it would weaken laws determining the legal age to buy alcohol or cannabis, elder abuse and statutory rape because they might “discriminate” based on age or gender.

“Politicians in Albany rushed through this poorly written, one-size-fits-all amendment language without following New York State Law without considering the consequences to everyday New Yorkers,” the group posted on its website.

But backers of the proposal say the amendment is focused on codifying and expanding reproductive and civil rights in the Empire State, not stripping parents of their rights.

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

The pro-amendment group says the measure if approved, would “provide the most comprehensive list of protected categories of any state in the country — safeguarding New Yorkers’ rights, as well as serving as a model for other states.”

But the proposal is also being challenged in the state Supreme Court by a Republican state lawmaker and others who argue that the Legislature voted to approve the amendment for the ballot before getting a legal opinion from state Attorney General Letitia James’ Office.