SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The concept of the Equal Rights Amendment is about to turn 100 years old, but politicians are still fighting over whether to ratify it in the U.S. Constitution.
This week, Illinois lawmakers weighed in.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is pushing to adopt a resolution that would remove the deadline from the amendment so it can be ratified. He held a hearing Tuesday about a joint resolution to pass the amendment to become part of the Constitution.
Among those testifying was Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, who voted in 2018 to make Illinois the 37th state to ratify the amendment that guarantees equality on account of sex. She argues that the amendment would help address wage inequality.
“We live with the stark reality that despite being the most educated demographic in the United States, black women are only paid 64 cents for every dollar paid to white men.” Stratton said. “There should be stronger remedies to make sure women, all women, are paid an equal wage based on their abilities, and qualifications and without discrimination based on sex.”
Stratton said she testified for the amendment because she believes her four daughters should be seen as equal to men in the Constitution.
“I stand upon the shoulders of women like Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, and so many others who paved the way for the rights of all women,” she said. “They sacrificed so much to push us forward. And yet we still live in a country that does not guarantee we should be protected. from discrimination in the constitution.”
Illinois, along with Nevada and Virginia, ratified the amendment more than 40 years after the amendment expired. Now constitutional scholars as well as members of Congress disagree if constitutional amendments can be revived.
“If Congress does specify a ratification deadline… like it has done with the ERA, then the court will in fact, enforce that deadline,” Elizabeth Price Foley, a professor of law at Florida International University and a witness testifying against the resolution, said. “I think Congress and the states have a very long-standing history of treating the mode of ratification that’s contained in the preamble as binding.”
“What has happened in the States should not die here in the Senate,” Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who’s for the resolution, said. “The fact is, there is no law, there is no Supreme Court precedent that says that our resolution is somehow unconstitutional or something that Congress cannot do.”
Critics of the resolution argued ERA is moot because of laws passed since the amendment expired guaranteeing more rights for women, but Durbin disagrees.
“The reality is that the Supreme Court, which at the time was made up entirely of male justices, established a lower level of scrutiny for sex discrimination claims under the 14th Amendment,” Durbin said. “The ERA would finally change this.”