As Illinois ratifies ERA, what’s next?
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
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For more information about the Equal Rights Amendment and the race to ratify, go online to www.ratifyera.org. 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.”