ERA: one win away – Arizona can put it over the top next year


News that tends not to get reported in the Arizona media: Illinois approves Equal Rights Amendment, 36 years after deadline:

The Illinois House voted Wednesday night to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment more than 45 years after it was approved by Congress, putting it one state away from possible enshrinement in the U.S. Constitution amid potential legal questions.

The 72-45 vote by the House, following an April vote by the Senate, was just one more vote than needed for ratification. It does not need the approval of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said he supports equal rights but was faulted by Democrats for not taking a position on the ERA.

“I am appalled and embarrassed that the state of Illinois has not done this earlier,” said Democratic Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego, a Marine veteran. “I am proud to be on this side of history and I am proud to support not only all the women that this will help, that this will send a message to, but I am also here to be a role model for my daughter.”

Helping to propel momentum for the measure was a resurgence in activism for women’s rights amid national demands to root out sexual discrimination and harassment in American culture in response to the #MeToo movement.

[S]tate Rep. Steve Andersson, a Geneva Republican, said the measure “isn’t about those distractions.”

“This is about who we are as a people. This is about who we believe the state of Illinois is and should be, going forward,” he said. “But it’s more than just the state of Illinois. It’s about the United States of America and quite frankly, I believe it’s about the planet. I believe it’s about how we treat women and men.”

Representative of divisions that went beyond partisanship, GOP Rep. Christine Winger of Wood Dale told her colleagues: “I am pro-life. Again, I am pro-life. I’m a mother of a 2-year-old daughter. I am for her and others to know in the state of Illinois she should have the same opportunities as men. Vote yes.”

State Rep. Litesa Wallace, an African-American Democrat from Rockford who is leaving the House after losing a bid for lieutenant governor, recounted her family’s history of oppression in likening her support for the ERA to the battle for civil rights.

“I’m the daughter of a man who was born on a plantation. I’m the granddaughter of a woman who left the South to come to Chicago for opportunity but never found it because of her race and her gender,” Wallace said during an emotional speech urging the amendment’s passage. “I stand here a single mother who has survived damn near anything you can think of, and I mean that quite literally.”

Illinois’ 1970 constitution outlaws gender discrimination. Nevada became the last state to ratify the ERA before Illinois last year.

“This is about the United States Constitution, people. And half the people in this country aren’t in it,” Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat who sponsored the resolution in the House, said. “They aren’t included in the United States Constitution. Isn’t that enough for you to realize the historic moment and step back from predispositions you’ve had and your heels dug in the ground on this issue and that issue and the other issue?”

Whether the amendment can be added to the nation’s founding document is still a matter of debate among constitutional experts. Geoffrey Stone, a professor at the University of Chicago who specializes in constitutional law, said it’s unclear “there’s an obvious right or wrong answer.”

As I have previously explained, Illinois Senate votes to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment:

First enacted in 1972 by Congress, the ERA legislation required that the measure be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38) within seven years. That deadline was later extended 10 years to 1982. There was federal court litigation over the deadline extension at the time. But the U.S. Constitution contains no time limit for ratification of constitutional amendments. In fact, subsequent to the ERA the 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting immediate congressional pay raises was ratified 203 years after its introduction. This called into question the soundness of  earlier federal court decisions on the ERA deadline. It is still a contested legal issue. Congress can also vote to remove the deadline language, and a bill has been introduced to do so.

I was part of a panel discussion with NOW activist Dianne Post (L) and Senator Pat Spearman, who led the ERA efforts in Nevada.

Blog for Arizona’s state Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley is among the Democratic women leading the fight to put the ERA over the top in Arizona. Their efforts have been thwarted by the male GOP leadership of the Arizona legislature. Arizona House recesses rather than debate the Equal Rights Amendment.

If you review the list of candidates running for the Arizona legislature that I posted yesterday, you will observe that there are an extraordinary number of women in both political parties running for office this November.

There is no good reason why there should not be bipartisan support among these women candidates, as there was in Illinois, to put the Equal Rights Amendment over the top in the Arizona legislature in the next legislative session. This should be among your litmus test questions for all candidates this November.

And as I have emphasized to Rep. Powers Hannley and other Democratic legislators over the years:

There is no reason why a companion ERA Amendment could not be added to the Arizona Constitution as well, which would afford women the same constitutional protections. The legislature can refer the amendment to the voters, or a citizens initiative can put the measure on the ballot. I would encourage our Democratic Caucus in the state legislature to pursue this state constitutional amendment. It is long past time to finish the long civil rights struggle to grant women equal rights under the Constitution.

Come January 2019, the time has arrived for Arizona to enter the 21st Century and to enshrine equal rights for women in the Constitution. You can make it happen with your vote this November. Choose wisely.


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