Illinois Waited 46 Years to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, but What's Four Decades Between Friends


The Illinois House voted on Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, following approval last month in the state Senate. The state is now the 37th to do so, following Nevada in 2017. What this means is that we’re now one state away from maybe enshrining women’s equal rights in the United States Constitution, a mere….. 231 years after the document was first ratified. Hey alright, ladies!

The ERA—which declares, rather simply, that the “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”—was originally proposed in 1921, approved by the House of Representatives in 1971, and then by the Senate in 1972. Congress then sent it to the states for ratification, and set a deadline for a vote: June 30, 1982, which was 36 years ago. This means that, should another state ratify it, Congress would need to remove the deadline in order for it to become the 28th amendment. Given that Congress is full of misogynists, I can see that being a real fight!

Illinois Republicans are already sowing the seeds of that fight, as the State Journal-Register reports:

Still, other Republican lawmakers rallied against the resolution, citing concerns it would codify into the law many policies against conservative values, such as abortion rights.
“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,” said Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard. “They have no other thing they want to do, and they’ll say ‘it’s silliness to talk about that.’”
He added the 1982 deadline set by Congress passed decades ago and that Illinois’ ratification would be meaningless.
“For us to adopt this today would be to adopt a falsehood. It would mean to adopt an illegal act. It would be a violation of our very own oaths of office,” he said.

So who knows. At the very least, voting to ratify the ERA feels like an important symbolic gesture at a time when everything else is, well, real bad. As Democratic Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego, Illinois 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.”

You and me both, bud.

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