Constitutional Amendments as Vehicles for Expanding Rights: Insights from U.S. State Constitutional Developments

I analyze the ways constitutional amendments are a vehicle for expanding understandings of rights and thereby serve as an alternative to rights-expansive court decisions. I focus on the role of rights-expanding constitutional amendments in U.S. states, which present an ideal case for analyzing this phenomenon, because state constitutional amendment processes are sufficiently flexible that enacting amendments to secure rights is a viable alternative to pursuing rights-expansive judicial rulings. By identifying recent U.S. state constitutional amendments that have expanded rights and the reasons why groups have opted to pursue the amendment route, I contribute to a better understanding of the conditions under which groups will turn to pass constitutional amendments to expand rights, the rights most likely to be protected through passage of amendments, and the consequences of relying on amendments rather than court decisions to update understandings of rights.