ERA Passes in Illinois

The Illinois House voted on Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 40-plus years after it was approved by Congress. The ERA, which gained momentum during the 1960s and aims to combat discrimination based on sex, explicitly enshrining civil rights regardless of gender, was approved by the House of Representatives in 1971 and then by the U.S. Senate in 1972. The proposed amendment was then sent to the state legislatures with bipartisan support for ratification, garnering 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications and appeared to be headed for enshrinement in the Constitution before it was met by a groundswell of opposition by conservative women’s groups.

By the time the ERA effort fizzled, Illinois was one of the 15 states that failed to ratify the amendment before the congressionally-imposed 1982 deadline. Three-quarters of the state legislatures would be necessary to enshrine the amendment into law. The ERA has found renewed interest and political life in the era of #MeToo and in 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify before Illinois became the 37th state to vote in favor of the ERA. Even with this renewed political push, the legislative future of the ERA remains dubious. “As has been the case for decades, the legislative debate over the Equal Rights Amendment was fraught with controversy,” the Chicago Tribune reports. “Opponents also contended the measure may be moot, since its original 1982 ratification deadline has long since expired. Supporters argued, however, that the 1992 ratification of the 1789 ‘Madison Amendment,’ preventing midterm changes in congressional pay, makes the ERA a legally viable change to the constitution.”

When Illinois state house voted 72-45 to ratify the amendment, just one vote more than required to approve the amendment, it left 13 remains states that have not ratified the ERA: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.