Decades later, state Senate panel OKs federal ERA

Decades later, state Senate panel OKs federal ERA

SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois Senate committee has approved the federal Equal Rights Amendment, an action repeatedly thwarted in the state decades ago.

Illinois was one of only 15 states that did not ratify the proposed amendment after it was approved by Congress in 1972. It fell short by three states of the 38 states required to become a part of the U.S. Constitution.

The revived amendment passed the Senate Executive Committee, 11-4, on Wednesday, with even Republican Senate leader Christine Radogno of Lemont voting for it. But she argued that the vote was more about politics than principle.

"This is a clear deflection from the one thing that affects women and families more than anything else and that's the abysmal economic condition of this state," said Radogno. "I think (Gov. Pat Quinn) is the one that is interested in pursuing this at this time, and if I was him I would like to be pursuing something like this as well, in order to get the focus off my record of the financial management (and) the federal investigation going on."

Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, the sponsor of the amendment, said she is resurrecting the measure because its failure in Illinois "is an outstanding blemish" on the state and an opportunity "to right a historical wrong."

"It's coming up now," Steans said, "because it is coming close to the end of the (legislative) session and if we don't do it now we'll have to wait until the next session."

Although the deadline for approval of the ERA passed in 1982, some supporters contend that if three more states adopt the amendment it could still become part of the Constitution.

Elise Bouc of Lake Zurich, director of Stop ERA Illinois, told the committee that the so-called three-state strategy was "an unconstitutional procedure."

She argued that adoption of the ERA would make women eligible for a military draft, remove gender-based automobile insurance rates favorable to women and would allow for equally harsh treatment in prison for female inmates.

"You can't make a distinction, even when it makes sense, based on gender under this ERA wording," she said.

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