Personal politics aside, most of us would agree that in 2018, everyone should have the same rights, regardless of their gender. The United States has admittedly come a long way on this front, but there are still steps that need to be taken to ensure that gender equality becomes a reality. Yesterday, May 30th, Illinois took a big step forward when it ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Equal Rights Amendment was created to ensure that equal rights “shall not be denied by the U.S. or any state on account of sex.” It was introduced in 1923 and finally passed in Congress in 1972. But in order for the amendment to take effect, 38 states had to add it to their constitutions, and by the time the 1982 deadline came around, only 35 states had done so. One of the amendment’s most vocal opponents was conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who argued it would make all laws “sex-neutral,” including military drafts, and she therefore felt it would hurt women.
Some conservatives also believe that the amendment is merely a smokescreen to expand abortion rights.
“The only alleged benefit I can see and that I’ve heard about or seen argued in court is that it will expand taxpayer funding of abortions,” Illinois Representative Peter Breen told the Illinois State Journal Register.
Decades after the deadline, however, the amendment has re-entered the nation’s consciousness. Nevada added it in 2017, and women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred championed its ratification at the 2018 Women’s March. Illinois ratified the amendment on May 30th with a 72-45 vote, meaning that now, 37 states have adopted it.
Even though we’re now just one state away from constitutionally guaranteed gender equality, there is some debate about whether the amendment can actually be ratified given that the deadline passed 36 years ago. However, as some supporters have pointed out, an amendment from 1789 was successfully ratified in 1992, so there’s still hope.
The battle to enact the Equal Rights Amendment is far from over, and sadly, not even its ratification will completely end gender inequality. Still, we’re glad that Illinois made this historic vote, and we will continue to work toward equality for all people.