As Illi­nois rat­i­fies ERA, what’s next?

Wisconsin Gazette - - News - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

In late May — 46 years af­ter Congress ap­proved the Equal Rights Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion — Illi­nois law­mak­ers voted yes. The state was the only north­ern state to fail to rat­ify the ERA be­fore a 1982 con­gres­sional dead­line.

“Af­ter 36 years, the Illi­nois House has fi­nally moved to rat­ify the Equal Rights Amend­ment, bring­ing us one step closer to con­sti­tu­tional equal­ity,” said Toni Van Pelt, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Women.

Wis­con­sin was among the first 15 states to vote to rat­ify the amend­ment, which reads, “Equal­ity of rights un­der the law shall not be de­nied or abridged by the United States or by any State on ac­count of sex.”

In March 1972, when Congress sent the pro­posed amend­ment to the states, rat­i­fi­ca­tion was re­quired by three-quar­ters — or 38 — of them be­fore the dead­line, which was first set for 1978 and then extended to 1982.

Nei­ther dead­line was met. Illi­nois is the 37th state, but it’s un­clear what hap­pens if one more


For more in­for­ma­tion about the Equal Rights Amend­ment and the race to rat­ify, go on­line to www.rat­i­fy­ state votes to rat­ify.

Other states that have yet to rat­ify the ERA are Alabama, Ari­zona, Arkansas, Florida, Ge­or­gia, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi, Mis­souri, North Carolina, Ok­la­homa, South Carolina, Utah and Vir­ginia.

“Ev­ery road­block imag­in­able has been thrown up against the Equal Rights Amend­ment, yet we have per­sisted,” said Eleanor Smeal, pres­i­dent of the Fem­i­nist Ma­jor­ity. “Since Alice Paul first au­thored the ERA in 1923, gen­er­a­tions of fem­i­nist women have strug­gled to make con­sti­tu­tional equal­ity a real­ity.”

Past at­tempts to move the ERA in Illi­nois were suc­cess­ful in both the House and the Se­nate, but not in the same year.

This year, en­cour­aged by mem­bers of more than 50 groups in the state, the vote was 43-12 in the Se­nate in April and 72-45 in the House in May.

What was dif­fer­ent this year? Fem­i­nist lead­ers point to the White House and re­fer to the #MeToo move­ment.

“The MeToo move­ment has un­der­scored the im­por­tance of strong le­gal pro­tec­tions for women’s rights and our re­solve to se­cure these con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tees is un­wa­ver­ing,” said Van Pelt.

‘Ev­ery road­block imag­in­able has been thrown up against the Equal Rights Amend­ment, yet we have per­sisted.’

She was look­ing to the next bat­tle­ground state.

“To­mor­row,” she said, “we will con­tinue the fight in Vir­ginia and the re­main­ing states.”

Smeal said, “Na­tional, state and lo­cal ef­forts will per­sist un­til equal­ity is ours.”

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