SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) voted "Present" on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Illinois Senate Thursday. The resolution needed 36 "Yes" votes for passage. Thirty-nine senators voted yes, 11 no and 6 - Senator Althoff among them - voted "Present." The resolution now moves to the Illinois House.
Before voting, she explained her vote to her colleagues on the Senate floor:
I think of myself as an extremely strong women’s rights advocate, and I sure do believe that my female constituents certainly know that to be true of me. I was a civic leader in my mayoral role and I am viewed as such in my senatorial capacity as well. I continue my community leadership role serving on human service provider boards and volunteering for every local fundraiser benefit, walk, run, bake sale, school program - what have you.
I believe women are equal to men and as such, they deserve the same rights, access and opportunities. I am proud to be a member of this General Assembly. noting that these rights are embedded in our state’s constitution.
But ladies and gentlemen, let’s be candid here, this resolution was introduced eight days ago, in the middle of the second to the last week of this session in an election year. If this issue were a priority to this body, with all due respect, admiration, affection and acknowledgement of the sponsor’s work ethic, this amendment would have been filed and worked much, much earlier.
This action, this resolution is an absolute red herring, a distraction. A device I was taught to use in my high school debate club. As Michael Douglas playing President Shepherd in my one time favorite movie, the American President said, “We have serious problems to solve and we need serious people to solve them.
This amendment is not a serious problem in the state of Illinois. I’ve already mentioned that our state’s constitution addresses well - very well - the right of women. And let me note, no other state has addressed ratification since the original 35 ratified in, or prior to, 1977. And since then, five have rescinded that ratification.
This is a forty year old issue. It is older than my children. Why are we, as serious people, not directing our attention to addressing serious issues that will actually benefit Illinois women today? Serious issues like how much debt each woman in this state owes, due to improperly managed taxpayer dollars and billions of dollars in debt? Serious issues like how many people - including women - are moving out of Illinois than into Illinois? Serious issues like choosing to take less pay or uprooting their children and families, disrupting their lives and looking for work outside of Illinois?
Serious issues like the state’s unemployment rate, which particularly hurts women who experience longer gaps between jobs after being laid off, and who are less likely to find new jobs at all. Serious issues like how difficult it is for businesses, including women-owned businesses, to open and stay open in Illinois? Serious issues like the week’s pay that has been taken away from working women every year? Serious issues like what the future of Illinois will look like for our grandchildren if we fail to address the real issues facing our state?
It has been said that this is needed - this amendment - which isn’t the case. But if it is true, why hasn’t it been said that fiscal reform is needed, which will help women’s issues more than anything in this state? If you want to support women and give them all the opportunities in the world, then enact better fiscal policies for them and for their children.
Working women deserve better in Illinois. They deserve more than symbolism. They deserve what all Illinois citizens deserve: honest government that is actively working to put more people to work in well paying jobs in a state that is living up to its best potential.
Thank you, Mr. President.