On Wednesday, the Illinois House signed the Equal Rights Amendment over four and a half decades after it was passed by Congress. Only one more state has to ratify for the amendment to become part of the constitution.
The amendment states that equality of rights should not be denied by the U.S. or any state “on account of sex.” It was first introduced in the year 1921, and afterward passed by Congress in 1972. Congress set a deadline of ten years for all states to ratify the amendment—yet that deadline was only met by thirty-five states. The process fell three states short of being able to enter the Constitution.
As decades passed, the amendment had been considered to be a lost cause, with none of the fifteen remaining states showing any plan to ratify it. Last year, the project for other states to ratify was revived when Nevada, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, ratified the amendment.
The states that have not yet ratified it are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia and Utah.
Supporters of the amendment’s ratification have stated that it focuses on abortion regulations and on enabling women to have equal rights. Senator Heather Steans released a statement saying that, by signing the Amendment, Illinois “can provide a strong legal protection for women’s rights and prevent rollbacks from Congress or presidential administrations,” and called it a necessary procedure for change.
She also urged the state of Virginia, which considered ratifying the Amendment but didn’t follow through, to re-consider the issue. She stated: “we are just one state away from ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. I encourage my colleagues in Virginia to continue the charge and become the final state to ratify the ERA.”
State Representative Jeanne Ives directed attention to the necessity of stopping sexual harassment and misconduct towards women, saying: “The fact of the matter is that women will not be protected until men decide to protect them and decide to stop the sexual harassment, decide to stop the domestic abuse, decide to stop the sex trafficking, decide in the workplaces when they are in charge that they will protect the women under their charge.”
Opponents have argued that the amendment is a ploy for limiting abortion restrictions. Illinois State Representative Peter Breen stated: “The only alleged benefit I can see and that I’ve heard about or seen argued in court is that it will expand taxpayer funding of abortions. They have no other thing they want to do, and they’ll say ‘it’s silliness to talk about that.’ ”
Some politicians have chosen to highlight how long it took the state to ratify the Amendment. Democratic State Representative Stephanie Kifowit told the Chicago Tribune: “I am appalled and embarrassed that the state of Illinois has not done this earlier. I am proud to be on this side of history and I am proud to support not only all the women that this will help, that this will send a message to, but I am also here to be a role model for my daughter.”
Chicago Tonight correspondent Amanda Vinicki shared a video on Twitter of the moment in which the motion to ratify the Amendment was passed by the House. She added a short description of the events: “Equal Rights Amendment passes; it was several votes under, then … legislators cheered “come on!” it surpassed the needed 71 votes, with bipartisan support (and bipartisan opposition). GOP leader Jim Durkin one of several Republicans voting for the ERA.”
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