Yesterday afternoon, the Illinois House voted 72-45 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, bringing it one state closer to being ratified into our Constitution. Thank you people of Illinois for your incredible work! This means that there is one state left to go. Inch by inch, our country is moving the needle towards a more equal and just union.
By Steph Black
The Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, was originally drafted in 1923 by Alice Paul, three years after she helped secure women the right to vote by passing the 19th amendment. She recognized that making women constitutionally equal under the law was integral to the fight for gender equality.
Finally, in 1972, nearly 50 years later, Congress passed the ERA and sent it to the states for ratification seeking a 38-state, two-thirds majority to sign it into law within a seven-year time limit. Congress subsequently extended the ratification deadline to June of 1982, but by then, only 35 states had voted to ratify. The ERA has been introduced by every Congress since then.
And in 1994, two strategies for ratification became clear: the traditional process described in Article V of the Constitution (passage by a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, followed by ratification by three-quarters of the states), and the innovative “three-state strategy” (ratification in three more of the 15 state legislatures that did not ratify the ERA in 1972-82, based on legal analysis that when three more states vote yes, this process could withstand legal challenge and accomplish ratification of the ERA).
The entirety of the ERA reads:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
The potential implications for women are huge. Lack of paid leave, pregnancy discrimination, unequal pay for equal work, denial of abortion, and so many more issues that impact women’s lives could be challenged under the U.S. Constitution. Legal discrimination based on sex would finally be put to rest.
And we are only one state away. We are one state from fulfilling the dream of thousands of women who have fought for this right. With continued efforts in the remaining states, hopes are high that we can make the ERA a reality nearly a century after it was conceived.
Steph Black is a Senior at American University studying Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. When not talking, reading, or writing about Judaism and feminism, she's usually hanging out with her cat, Goose or with friends downtown.