Senator Steans on the Seante floor.

Illinois a step closer to endorsing constitutionally protected rights for women

SPRINGFIELD – After a nearly 50 year-long battle, the Illinois State Senate took a historic vote Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and solidify equal rights for all.

“Women across the nation are rising up and pushing back against laws and policies that deny our equality,” said State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), sponsor of the measure. “By voting to ratify the ERA, Illinois lawmakers are saying to women everywhere, ‘We hear you, and we stand with you.’”

The Equal Rights Amendment declares that equality of rights will not be denied by the United States or any state on account of sex. It initially was introduced in Congress in 1923 and was sent to the states for ratification 46 years ago.

Several advancements for women’s rights, such as the Equal Pay Act and Title IX, could be repealed by a majority vote in Congress. The Executive Branch also could reduce enforcement of these acts. The ERA solidifies legal protections for women.

“Many people do not realize women have no guaranteed equal rights under the U.S. Constitution. From equal pay to equal health care access, women’s rights are in jeopardy as long as our equality is not cemented in the Constitution,” Steans said.

Decades of widespread misinformation have hindered Illinois’ ability to ratify the ERA, she added.

“For decades, opposition has argued that the ERA would open women to being drafted and that it would hurt mothers in custody or divorce battles,” Steans said. “The fact is the ERA would strengthen protections and legal standards for women.”

To date, 36 states have voted to ratify the ERA, with Nevada being the most recent. To be ratified to the Constitution, 38 states must approve the amendment.

The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration. For Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, three-fifths of House members will need to vote in support.

Steans also sponsored a measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in 2014.

This is the first piece of legislation passed in the Senate with the support of the newly formed, bipartisan Senate Women’s Caucus.

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