Equal Protection Amendment Pulled from Senate Floor in Del. - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Equal Protection Amendment Pulled from Senate Floor in Del.

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Legislative Hall in Dover (Photo: WBOC) Legislative Hall in Dover (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del.- A proposed equal protection amendment to Delaware's state constitution has been tabled after certain lawmakers said they need more time to consider the proposal.

The vote was supposed to come soon after 49 people were killed at a gay club in Orlando, Fla. over the weekend. The bill has been in the works for weeks. Sen. Karen Peterson filed it on May 19.

The amendment says equal protection under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sexual orientation, race, sex, gender identity, age, religion, creed, color, familial status, disability or national origin.

Many of these protections exist under current law. Peterson says the amendment would provide for stronger, broader protection and serve as a statement that Delaware treats all people equally.

Doug Ferris is a supporter who lives in Wyoming, Del.

"It's quite surprising to know that we don't have those in our state constitution, because everyone should be under equal rights no matter what."

People advocating against the bill say since many of those protections already exist, but they believe the bill broadens the power of the courts. The synopsis of the bill says it allows the courts to establish their own rules and tests for proof of equal protection violations.

"We do not want our state constitution to broaden the boundaries of government which is what this bill is going to do," said Kimberly Whaley Mascheri, an advocate in opposition Tuesday at Legislative Hall.

Peterson acknowledged Tuesday that she did not have enough votes to pass the bill which needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

Joy Whaley Hill was advocating against the bill, too. She says the repercussions of the bill are not clear.

"It's premature to pass a bill that's possibly going to amend our constitution when we really don't know what the full ramifications of that would even look like," she told WBOC.

Peterson explained the proposal to fellow senators Tuesday and offered supporting testimony from a law professor, then tabled the legislation.
           
The amendment requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber, and Peterson acknowledged she did not have enough votes Tuesday for passage.

To actually change the state constitution, the bill needs a two-thirds majority in both houses in two separate legislative sessions. That means the entire process would need to happen again next year.

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