Speed Reads

Equality ... soon?

Illinois approves Equal Rights Amendment, putting it 1 state away from ratification, maybe

The Illinois House voted 72-45 on Wednesday night to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional amendment banning discrimination based on sex that was drafted in 1923, passed by Congress in 1972, and is now just one state shy of the 38 needed to add the ERA to the U.S. Constitution — maybe. Illinois has definitely ratified the amendment — the Senate approved it in April and Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) doesn't need to sign it — but Congress set a 1979 deadline for 38 states to ratify the ERA, then extended the deadline to 1982, and only 35 states had approved it by that point. Nevada ratified it in 2017.

Still, Congress could extend the deadline again, especially if one more state ratifies the ERA, and some supporters say another extension isn't necessary, given that Congress ratified the 1789 "Madison Amendment" in 1992. Complicating matters, five states have claimed they withdrew their backing, which they might not be able to do. The 13 states that have not ratified the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

It's unclear whether "there's an obvious right or wrong answer" to the ERA's viability as a constitutional amendment, University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone told the Chicago Tribune. It would "lock in" many of the rights women have won since the mid-1900s, but "the main reason for adopting the Equal Rights Amendment today if one could legally, constitutionally do it would be the symbolic importance of it," he added. "The rejection of it is in some ways insulting. So, the symbolic importance of it is to who we are as a nation — what our aspirations are, what our values are. That in itself is an important affirmation of who we are."