SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Heather Steans ( D-Chicago 7th ) stated the case today for making Illinois the 36th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which if added to the U.S. Constitution would prohibit gender discrimination by the federal government or the states. The Senate Executive Committee approved the ratification resolution, sending it to the full Senate for a vote.
"It's time for Illinois, which has long stood at the forefront of equal rights, to lead again," Steans said. "Our own state constitution protects against gender-based discrimination, and there is no excuse not to vote for our values and finally establish the equality of men and women in our nation's central, founding document."
The Equal Rights Amendment 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." Congress first sent the amendment to the states for ratification in 1972. By 1977, 35 states had ratified, but the ERA fell three states short of the 38 ( three-fourths of all the states ) needed to add the provision to the Constitution.
Michelle Fadeley, president of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization of Women, testified that her mother was on hand — and pregnant with Fadeley — when ERA proponents filled the Illinois Capitol in 1982. That year, some supporters even went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the need for a constitutional guarantee of women's rights. The attempt at ratification failed.
"Thirty-one years later, my rights are still not guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution," Fadeley said. "It's time to enter the 21st century."
"We have a chance to make history," said Cristina Villarreal, president of the Chicago chapter of NOW. "I want my daughter to grow up in a state that values her rights."
"Ratification is not just a hugely important symbolic step but a move to establish women's rights as a bedrock principle in the Constitution," Steans said. "From equal pay to equal access to health care, freedom from gender-based discrimination should be the law of the land and not subject to political whims. Equal rights are not a fad; they're in the fabric of our nation, and the ERA confirms that."