Twenty years after the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) fell three states short of ratification, Illinois and Florida have taken steps to ratify the ERA. Both were key states during the campaign to win support for the ERA, and both failed by small margins to ratify the amendment before the 1982 deadline. On Wednesday, however, the ERA was passed by a House judiciary committee in Illinois, where supporters hope it will next clear the Democratically controlled General Assembly, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
ERA supporters hope that ratification in Illinois would lead to renewed interest in other states. “ERA was killed in Illinois. Only Illinois can resurrect it,” said Gayle Guthrie, president of ERA-Illinois, according to the St. Louis Today. Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, told the Sun-Times that passage of the ERA in Illinois would be a major step forward–“We believe if we could get states number 36 and 37, there would be a rush to be the last state” necessary to ratify the amendment.
The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923, authored by suffragist Alice Paul, head of the National Woman’s Party. Congress passed the ERA in 1972, when it was sent to the states for ratification. Since the ratification deadline in 1982, the ERA has been introduced in Congress every year, where it sits in committee. The campaign to defeat the ERA was led by business interests and the ultraconservative Phyllis Schlafly, who was just this week honored at the right-wing Conservative Political Action Conference for her work against women’s and lesbian and gay rights.