The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a landmark piece of legislation that aimed to combat discrimination based on sex, was first proposed in 1923, picked momentum in 1960s and was finally approved by the Congress in 1972.
The gist of the amendment lies in a line where it says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
However, the fact that 15 states did not ratify the ERA before the 1982 deadline indicated some legislative bodies and conservative groups actually had a problem with agreeing to such a fundamental agenda.
But it seems after nearly four decades, some of these states have managed to win the legal battle in favor of the amendment in question as Illinois recently became the 37th state to approve the 1972 federal ERA with Nevada being the 36th state when it signed the agreement last year.
The legislation garnered 72 votesin the state Senate, which is why it didn’t even require the support of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
State Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) voted in favor of the ratification and talked about how his faith views men and women as equals during the two-hour-plus floor debate.
"All individuals are made in the image and likeness of God ... this includes both men and women. I am a pro-life representative with a strong pro-life voting record," he said. "After this vote is done, I will continue to be a strong pro-life representative with a strong pro-life voting record."
In the era of #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, the amendment seemed to have found a renewed political interest, particularly in states where it faced groundswell of opposition over unsubstantiated arguments – including how it would supposedly expand abortion rights for women or wouldn’t erase the gender pay gap.
According to the Chicago Tribune, even with this progress, legislative future of the ERA remains ambiguous.
“As has been the case for decades, the legislative debate over the Equal Rights Amendment was fraught with controversy,” the publication said. “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.”
Nevertheless majority of the lawmakers of the state rejoiced the decision.
"This is a historic day for women across the country," said Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) who sponsored the measure in the Senate. "I am thrilled that members of the House joined the Senate in standing up for women's rights."
“I am appalled and embarrassed that the state of Illinois has not done this earlier,” Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, a Marine veteran, told The Tribune. “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.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also released a statement:
Tonight, Illinois sent a clear message to the country that we stand united for equality and justice for all. Enshrining equal rights for women in our nation's Constitution is an important and long overdue step on the journey to a more perfect union. #ERA#RatifyERApic.twitter.com/bIpPKxDTry— Mayor Rahm Emanuel (@ChicagosMayor) May 31, 2018
Many prominent social media users applauded the state’s decision of ratification.
The floor speech of Rep Litesa Wallace in the Illinois House on the #ERA may have been the single most culturally salient of its kind in the last 10 years. Easily one of the most important moments in any American statehouse, from any lawmaker, that I have ever seen.— Rae Hodge (@RaeHodge) May 31, 2018
After tonight's momentous win, we have come one step closer to acheiving constitutional equality. To the women of Illinois and all those that continue to fight tirelessly for the ERA: Thank You.#ERANOW pic.twitter.com/ZY32zP9TZ0— National NOW (@NationalNOW) May 31, 2018
An historic evening in Springfield! Illinois became the 37th state to pass the ERA. We only need one more State to ratify so women can have an #EqualRightsAmendment in the constitution. #twill pic.twitter.com/hbsLKxHAvB— Robyn Gabel (@RobynGabel) May 31, 2018
It is important to mention in order for an amendment to be added to the Constitution, it needs approval by legislatures in three-fourths (38) of the 50 states. With 37 states on board, there is just one more state to go to reach the requisite total.
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