SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-Aurora) voted present on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Illinois Senate Thursday. One of three GOP women that voted "present," she explained why in floor debate:
We are talking today about a failed amendment from 40 years ago. At a time when we have immediate issues that go unresolved here in Illinois. An outdated amendment that is older than many of our staffers and some of our colleagues.
And please, don’t misunderstand, I’m a dedicated advocate for women’s rights and a beneficiary of those rights.
I spent eight years as the first elected female county board chairman and I now am incredibly proud to sit in this chamber as the representative of the people of the 33rd district. I am incredibly grateful for the work done by women throughout history that have paved the way for myself and others to achieve the type of success that we have here today.
I look at what we have accomplished in Illinois to ensure equality for all: The Illinois Equal Pay Act insures that women are paid the same as men. Marriage equality became the law last year. Discrimination against women is prohibited in the Illinois Human Rights Act and in the Illinois Constitution.
This week, I was proud to support Senator Hutchison’s legislation providing reasonable accommodation for pregnant women. While not perfect, we have done much since the 1980s to provide and insure equality for all Illinois citizens.
Women are smart, and are keenly aware of the big issues facing the state - like the budget and taxes, unemployment and education are the very same issues that pose the greatest threats to our families. Like many women, I am a mother and a wife. When I think about the issues I care about most, I think about how they effect my children and yours.
I worry about issues like proper education funding for all of our children in Illinois. In a state with the third highest unemployment rate in the nation, I worry about making sure our family members are able to find jobs - and find jobs that won’t be shipped to another state.
These are the kinds of issues - the kinds of topics - that women want us to discuss. I believe women in Illinois are far more interested in how we’re going to pass a budget that allows a 67 percent income tax hike to expire so that families can have the week’s pay that they’ve lost every year since 2011. They are more interested in their ability to put food on their table than they are in this amendment - issues that are already addressed in the Illinois Constitution.
We have heard that this is symbolically important to pass this amendment. Well I think most women today would tell you that symbolic gestures can wait, but the real issues facing Illinois cannot. If we’re really concerned about helping women, then can we please address the issues women are telling us they actually care about today?
I take equal rights for women incredibly seriously, but I can’t stand and support what has amounted to no more than a political diversion. I will be voting “present.”