By Brady Cremeens -
SPRINGFIELD - The federal Equal Rights Amendment was first debated in era of shag carpeting, polyester leisure suits and avocado appliances.
Illinois lawmakers in the 1970s voted the measure down and eventually the national push fell short.
But Wednesday, in a largely symbolic move, Illinois lawmakers revisited the issue.
The resolution’s sponsor, State Sen. Heather A. Steans, D-Chicago, lauded the move as a chance to “rid ourselves of this blemish on our record. … Illinois has shown outstanding leadership in issues of equality, except on this. We have the opportunity to fix it.”
But State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, countered, “I’m for it. I’m going to vote for it. But it’s clearly an attempt to distract us from the main issue — the fact that the state is in dire financial straits. Every girl born in this state has $10,000 in public debt to her name. That’s a real women’s issue.”
Radogno, the first woman in Illinois history to lead a legislative caucus, added the focus needs to be on the economic difficulties facing the state.
“The abysmal economic situation of this state affects women and families in the state in major ways,” she said. “Far more than whatever good ratifying an extremely old amendment will do.”
The U.S. Congress voted to adopt an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in 1972. Thirty-five states ratified the amendment, but five rescinded ratification. Illinois remains in the minority of states never to have ratified the ERA.
Michelle Fadeley, president of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization of Women, ILNOW, criticized the state for failing to ratify the amendment thus far.
“This is supposed to be the land of opportunity, not just in general, but guaranteed through legal decree,” she said. “As a woman, my rights are still not protected in this state based on national law. The U.S. Constitution acknowledges this need, but Illinois desperately needs to finally ratify this amendment.”
However, the room was not unanimous in this belief.
Elise Bouc, state director for Illinois Stop-ERA, testified against the ERA.
“The problem is that we need the proper tools to advance women’s rights in our state,” she said. “This is not the proper tool. It’s very poorly worded and will do more harm than good.”
Brady Cremeens writes for Illinois News Network.