Two McLean County women who helped lead the successful push for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois say their fight isn’t over yet.
The Illinois House ratified the ERA last week. Following earlier passage in the Illinois Senate, the vote puts the ERA one state away from possible enshrinement in the U.S. Constitution amid potential legal questions.
Sally Pancrazio of Bloomington helped lead local and statewide organizing efforts on the ERA. She said supporters are now turning their attention to Virginia, Florida, and Arizona for that clinching 38th state. Like Illinois, those three already have state-level equal protection provisions, plus dedicated ERA supporters, Pancrazio said.
“They all have conservative leadership running the shows there, but the momentum is very strong to get that last state—that 38th state,” Pancrazio said on GLT’s Sound Ideas.
The ERA aims to end the legal distinction between men and women, something supporters say would enhance equality when it comes to issues like equal pay. Congress approved it in 1972, and then it went to the states for ratification. Thirty-eight states had to approve it by 1982, a deadline set by Congress. It fell short by three.
Nevada voted for ratification in 2017. Illinois just became No. 37.
But with that 1982 deadline, will the ERA ratification votes be only symbolic?
Pancrazio said two bills are pending in Congress that would address this question. One would remove the time restriction on ratification. Another would clarify that those states that rescinded their ERA ratifications can’t actually do that.
“It’s not over yet,” Pancrazio said. “We do expect that the opponents—and they’re there, and many of them are from states that were part of the Confederacy, so we understand the history there about unequal rights for equal individuals—we expect it to go to the Supreme Court for a decision.”
Bloomington-Normal’s delegation was split on the ERA. State Sen. Jason Barickman and Rep. Dan Brady, both Republicans from Bloomington, supported ratification. Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, and Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, opposed it.
Opponents claim the ERA’s goal is to further abortion access. Pancrazio said that argument has been debunked, and that there’s no relationship between equal rights and abortion.
It’s a “a head fake to scare pro-lifers into being cautious,” Pancrazio said.
Dan Brady made similar comments last week on the House floor.
Pancrazio and fellow organizer Kay Moss praised Dan Brady and Barickman for their open-mindedness on the issue.
“(Dan Brady) listened. He listened to constituents,” Moss said. “And because he was the first Republican, it allowed other pro-life legislators the chance to read and take it seriously and open up to the idea.”
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