A resurrection?

A resurrection?

It's a mistake to live in the past. It's an ever bigger one to legislate from the past.

All legislative work doesn't — and can't — come to a halt just because of the indefensible and hugely destructive state budget standoff between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative Democrats.

Nonetheless, it's reasonable to wonder just what some of our legislators are thinking as they seek to refight a bitter legislative battle that ended 35 years ago involving an issue that has been long dead and buried.

The issue: the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Congress approved the measure in 1972 and gave proponents seven years to persuade legislatures in 38 states to pass it. When that deadline expired, Congress extended the deadline by another three years to June 30, 1982. So much time passed that four states of the 35 that had ratified the amendment rescinded their ratifications.

The national consensus a proposed constitutional amendment needs for passage was clearly absent.

But it raised a huge fight, nowhere more bitter than in Springfield, where legislators were buffeted for years by extremists on both sides.

Whether it should have or not, the ERA never passed. Time ran out. The case is closed.

Well, not quite so fast. Every few years, pro-ERA survivalists, like those World War II Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender, drag the issue out of the closet and try again to pass it.

Never mind that the congressional deadline expired in 1982. Proponents hope to eventually get to 38 states and then find a federal judge who's intellectually dishonest enough to declare that the traditional deadline Congress puts on proposed constitutional amendments doesn't matter and declare the measure adopted.

The ERA is an issue from another age, even if equal rights for women is very much a part of the legal and social landscape.

As a matter of law, it's a moot point for a good reason. Existing law already guaranteed equal rights, even if it took court battles in some cases to emphasize that reality.

The Illinois Constitution guarantees equal rights for all. The U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause, contained into the Civil War-era Fourteenth Amendment, provides the same guarantees.

So what's going on with Chicago state Sen. Heather Steans, the ERA's chief sponsor, and her proposed amendment? Is she trying to rally the Democratic Party base by picking a fight with Republicans? Is she simply oblivious to legislative and legal realities?

Who knows? But Steans is clearly barking up the wrong tree and doing so at a time when really important issues, including the state's finances, require serious attention.

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