Our Pledge To You


State Senate says #UsToo on Equal Rights Amendment — nearly half a century later

Equal Rights Amendment demonstration in May, 1978, on South Michigan Avenue. File Photo.

Bolstered by the rise of women in politics and the #metoo movement, the Illinois Senate on Wednesday voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, 36 years after the state failed to pass the measure to constitutionally protect the rights of women.

The move puts Illinois one step closer to becoming the 37th state to approve the amendment. The Illinois House must still also approve it.

Nevada most recently became the 36th state, and Virginia is also working to pass the amendment. In order to be added to the Constitution, 38 states must approve the amendment.

With no debate, the Illinois Senate voted to approve the measure 43-12.

The amendment declares that equality of rights will not be denied by the U.S. or any state on account of sex. It was originally introduced in Congress in 1923 and was sent to the states for ratification 46 years ago.

Equal Rights Amendment march in April 1978. Sun-Times file photo.

“I think one of the things that we want to do in terms of ratifying here in Illinois the Equal Rights Amendment is saying, ‘We hear you, we really do want to protect all of our rights that we’re very concerned are going to get rolled back in some way, shape or form,'” said the measure’s sponsor, State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago. “When you don’t have the same constitutional basis of equality, you risk that things can get rolled back.”

Steans noted Illinois is the place where the ERA died in 1982.

“It was very ugly here. We were never able to pass it here. We got to 35 out of 38 states that were needed to ratify and Illinois couldn’t do it,” Steans said. “It’s time for us to rectify that wrong.”

Alana Smart leads a group of Equal Rights Amendment supporters in a song before the group left Union Station for Springfield in April of 1975. Sun-Times File Photo/Charles Krejcsl.

The ERA is the first measure pushed by a newly formed bi-partisan Senate Women’s Caucus.

“We have our differences on many issues but we respect each other,” said State Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles who is serving as a co-chair for the caucus. “And together we are very committed to the idea of advancing and promoting legislation and policy that is good for women — good for women, good for families.”

An estimated 10,000 marchers descend on the Capitol building in Springfield, Ill to demonstrate for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, May 16, 1976. (AP Photo/File)