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Senate votes to ratify Equal Rights Amendment (AUDIO)

052214 js 1322RERA would add legal equality for women to the U.S. Constitution

SPRINGFIELD – Today, the Illinois Senate approved a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. If three-fifths of House members agree, Illinois will become the 36th state to ratify the ERA, and only two additional states will need to sign on in order to reach the three-fourths threshold for constitutional amendments.

“Generations of women have struggled simply to establish as one of our nation’s core values that discrimination based on gender is wrong, yet this issue is as timely and urgent as ever,” said State Senator Heather Steans (D - Chicago), sponsor of the resolution. “From equal pay to equal health care access to fair treatment on college campuses, women’s rights are at risk as long as they are not protected in the Constitution.”

The Equal Rights Amendment reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Congress first sent the amendment to the states for ratification in 1972.

Proponents pointed out that 42 years after states began ratifying the ERA, women still face inequality. The average woman earns 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. For African American women, the wage gap is even wider: 65 cents for each dollar a man earns. A Hispanic woman earns only 55 cents to a man's dollar. When women seek to exercise their rights, they often face uphill court battles. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has stated that in his opinion, the Constitution does not prohibit gender-based discrimination.

“As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘The time is always right to do the right thing,’” Steans said. “It’s hard to believe that in 2014, we still have to debate the appropriateness of declaring the legal equality of men and women, but there’s no time like the present to make history and right this wrong.”

Click below to hear Senator Steans floor remarks: