Measure 89, a years-long project of Portland activist Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, had no formal opposition.
With all but two of Oregon's 36 counties reporting, the measure had gathered 63 percent of the vote to 37 against. The measure did especially well in Multnomah County, where it received more than 77 percent of the vote.
The measure's passage will amend Article I, Section 20 of the state constitution to guarantee that "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex."
DiLorenzo was tremendously happy and relieved.
"I think everybody else was saying 'it's a sure thing' but there's a reason that the federal ERA hasn't passed in 91 years," she said Tuesday evening. "All I did was truly take it day by day and hope that we would make it."
DiLorenzo said the measure is important because now it's "not an opinion. It's actually text and law...now we have established state policy in the constitution that has never been there."
"This is really an historic thing that has happened. What voters did in Oregon tonight was hugely historic."
She said she'll now move on to help groups in other states pass similar laws and continue to work toward a federal ERA.
The measure drew considerable support, including 20 statements in the Voters' Pamphlet backing it and endorsements from both of Oregon's U.S. senators, four of its five U.S. House representatives, Gov. John Kitzhaber and a smattering of Democratic and Republican state legislators.
The move to adopt a state ERA follows the unsuccessful effort at the national level to amend the U.S. Constitution to include it. That effort got off the ground rapidly by winning approval in the U.S. House and Senate in 1972 before losing steam. It ultimately fell three states short of the 38 needed for ratification.
DiLorenzo argued during the campaign that adoption of an Oregon ERA was more than just a symbolic act. She expressed hope that adoption in Oregon would revive a national ERA-ratification movement.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, while not actively campaigning against Measure 89, dismissed it as an unnecessary cluttering of the Oregon Constitution.
ACLU officials insisted that Oregon law already has the strongest possible protection against discrimination.
That view was contradicted, however, in a letter written by four former Oregon Supreme Court justices.
"At least 22 states have adopted equal rights amendments in their constitutions," stated the letter, signed by former Chief Justice Paul De Muniz, Michael Gillette, William Riggs and George Van Hoomissen. "Not one of the 'concerns' voiced by the ACLU has ever come to pass in those states."
Link to original article from The Oregonian