The Equal Rights Amendment, a subject of legislative battles in Nevada since the 1970s, will appear on the 2022 general-election ballot after a passionate push in two sessions of the Nevada Legislature by state Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, and others.
Spearman, the first openly lesbian member of the Nevada Legislature, has long been a crusader for the ERA, which would prohibit discrimination based on gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.
If approved by voters next year, those points would be ingrained into the Nevada Constitution — a victory for women and the LGBTQ+ community.
Spearman said on Nevada Newsmakers that progress on equal rights is why she sees the 2020s as a time when Americans will have a “revelation” on the subject.
“2020, that means you have perfect eyesight,” she told host Sam Shad. “So 2020, in my mind was a year of not revolution but revelation.
“We are becoming more aware of the diversity of God’s creation,” said Spearman, an ordained minister and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.
“God didn’t make all roses. He didn’t make all daffodils,” she said. “He has a bunch of different types of flowers. There are different types of grass, not one type of tree.”
Honesty of Assemblywoman Sarah Peters
Spearman praised Reno Assemblywoman Sarah Peters’ courage for standing on the Assembly floor — like she did in March — and declaring she was pansexual.
“I’ve been open to my identity to anyone who asked,” Peters wrote on Twitter on the day of her announcement. “Today I put it on the record. Thank you for your support of our LGBTQ+ community.”
The revelation came during LGBTQ+ Health Awareness Week at the Legislature.
Later, after receiving various reactions to the revelation, Peters added on Twitter:
“Hi. Being celebrated for my queerness is weird. Being bisexual and pansexual comes with so much guilt and questioning. Am I queer enough? Am I gay enough? What if I end up heteronormative, am I straight? Y’all, we are all enough and worth celebrating!”
Yet the reaction to Peters’ revelation was probably not all positive, Spearman suggested.
“This was something that nobody would admit to publicly unless they were ready to deal with the wrath,” Spearman said.
“I applaud Assemblywoman Peters because that does take a certain amount of courage,” Spearman said.
“There were a lot of people who went to Google to find out what that was,” Spearman said about pan-sexuality, before again turning serious:
“It is that courage of one’s convictions that says, ‘This is what I need to do.’
“And I will say this: If you have someone who is brave enough to admit that and embrace that publicly, then that says a lot about their moral turpitude and about their compass because that means they are unafraid to be honest,” Spearman said. “And if they are unafraid to be honest about themselves, they they are unafraid to be honest about you.”
That sense of honesty is the reason why Spearman said she never ran away from being a lesbian during her Nevada political career.
She was first elected as a state senator in 2012. Before that, she was in the U.S. Army for 29 years and also served as the superintendent of the San Marcos Independent Consolidated School District in Texas.
“A number of people said to me when I ran — because when I ran, I ran out (as a lesbian) — they said, ‘Oh my God, nobody has ever done that … and I said, ‘It is important for people to know who I am. I’m not trying to be in the closet.’
“This is who I am and people have to know that I am comfortable with that,” Spearman continued. “And if I’m comfortable and can embrace that publicly, know for sure I am not going to lie to you. I am not going to try and hide anything from you.”
Spearman’s 2017 ERA victory
Spearman drew national attention during the 2017 Legislature for leading the charge to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on a federal level, 38 years after the congressionally-imposed deadline for its approval by two-thirds of the states.
The ERA’s passage in Nevada in 2017 was historic. The Nevada Legislature shot down the ERA in 1973, 1975 and 1977. A 1978 ERA ballot measure lost by a two-to-one margin. Now, with Spearman’s help, voters will again decide its fate in 2022, 44 years after the last statewide vote.
The vote to ratify in the Nevada Legislature was seen by some as symbolic back in 2017. Yet Spearman knew it was more than that and bristled at the “symbolic” suggestion.
“We have delayed passage long enough,” Spearman told National Public Radio in 2017. “Now is the time to show the country, and the global neighborhood, we as Nevadans lead when it comes to equality for all.”
Nevada’s passage inspired two more states — Illinois and Virginia — to pass the measure, giving the ERA the 38 states necessary to be added to the U.S. Constitution.
“If we didn’t need for this to be enshrined in our (U.S.) Constitution, why in the world would we have such a gap in terms of pay equity?” Spearman said then.
Inclusion into the Constitution was blocked by the congressionally-imposed deadline through a ruling from the Trump-era Department of Justice.
In March, a federal judge denied a suit brought by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and the Illinois and Virginia AGs to force the federal government to recognize Virginia’s ERA vote and add it to the Constitution.