For over a decade, Democrats, women’s groups, and some Republicans fought to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which sought to guarantee equal rights under the law regardless of a person’s sex.
In order to be ratified and added to the U.S. Constitution, 38 states need to sign onto the amendment. But, thanks in large part to scaremongering tactics from conservative politicians and activists like Phyllis Schlafly, the amendment failed to gain the necessary buy-in from state legislatures, and the ERA officially failed on June 30, 1982.
On Wednesday, the Illinois state Senate voted to ratify the ERA—roughly 36 years after Congress’ deadline. The measure now heads to the Illinois House.
From the Chicago Tribune:
Opponents have questioned the relevance of approving the amendment, given that so much time has passed since the deadline. They note the Illinois Constitution already guarantees equal protections regardless of sex.
Supporters, though, say they believe this is the year Illinois will approve the amendment, citing outrage over sexual harassment controversies from which the state Capitol hasn’t been immune.
“I think voting to ratify the ERA helps give voice to these women and say, ‘We hear you, we are with you and we agree,” said Sen. Heather Steans, the Chicago Democrat carrying the amendment in the Senate. “It’s high time we provide equal rights to women across the country.”
While the idea that the ERA’s provisions could still be controversial in 2018 may seem absurd, never underestimate Republicans’ ability to keep their ideology frozen in amber (circa 1982). On Wednesday, 12 GOP state lawmakers—11 men and one woman—kept Schlafly’s spirit alive by voting against the measure.
Happy belated Equal Pay Day!