In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment and most states promptly approved it. But over the years, it fell three states short of the two-thirds necessary for ratification. Last March, Nevada ratified the ERA, leaving only two states to go. Illinois has a chance to be one of those two states this spring when the state legislature returns.
The operative language of the ERA is only 24 words: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” It is a simple declaration that discrimination on the basis of gender is not allowed.
Why is this necessary? The ERA would make equal rights indelible. Legislative changes are a patchwork at best, potentially revocable by legislative whim or nullified by the courts.
The lack of an Equal Rights Amendment allowed Justice Scalia, in 2010, to declare that the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. For that, he stated, “you have legislatures.”
Today you cannot seek redress based on the Constitution; instead you can pass a law, and then pass another law, and then pass another law, and then litigate them all. No wonder Illinois women earn only 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
This simple amendment has the power to bring change. The Illinois state constitution already guarantees equal protection; the legislature should take the simple step of ratifying the federal constitutional amendment that would do the same.
League of Women Voters of the LaGrange Area