JoNell Bakke and Melissa Gillett, Published May 19 2012
Measure 3 sure recipe for endless litigation, harmful consequencesThe North Dakota Women’s Network serves as a catalyst for improving the lives of women through communication, legislation and increased public activism. Our organization passed a resolution to stand against Measure 3 for the core reasons our mission implies.
The measure is written in a way that will create loopholes due to its lack of protection for individual civil rights. What does this mean? It means individuals who break a law or discriminate against another person have a protected defense and that the state must prove (in court) otherwise.
If Measure 3 passes, it could allow a person to take advantage and use personal religious beliefs to claim the right to break important laws that are meant to protect all of us, like laws against abuse and discrimination.
For example, an employer could use religious beliefs to fire a pregnant woman because she is unmarried. Let’s think this through: We now have a single mother unemployed and struggling to make ends meet to care for the welfare of her family. Her employer would have a protected defense for his action, and a judge would have to determine otherwise.
Just last month, headlines reported the Indiana story of a woman who was fired from her position as a teacher in a Catholic school because she used a medical process called in vitro fertilization to become pregnant.
This is not an isolated case. Under the state constitution, if Measure 3 is passed, discriminatory acts like this could be perpetrated by anyone, for any reason, if they claim the basis is a “sincerely held religious belief.”
Supporters of Measure 3 claim that concerns about abuse and discrimination aren’t warranted because the government has a compelling interest to protect victims of abuse or discrimination. However, Measure 3 would mean the government would have to prove its case each and every time someone takes advantage of the law – giving those who take advantage of the law the upper hand while taxpayers foot the bill for endless litigation. And, most importantly, delaying the state’s ability to protect women and children.
Measure 3 is worded very differently than laws in other states that are meant to protect religious freedom. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. The truth is, Measure 3 could lead to endless litigation and serious, even harmful, consequences for North Dakotans.
Bakke, Grand Forks, is chairwoman of the North Dakota Women’s Network; Gillett, Tolna, N.D., is co-chairwoman.