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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy photo The text of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment amendment to the U.S. Constitution is shown on a plaque commemorating Indiana's adoption of the language in 1977.

Saturday, April 14, 2018 1:00 am

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Illinois' revival of ERA puts spotlight on Hoosier history

The Illinois Senate voted 43-12 Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Its prospects are said to be uncertain in the House, but if it passes there, Illinois would become the 36th state to approve the ERA.

Thirty-eight states must concur if an amendment is to become part of the U.S. Constitution. But in this case, making the ERA the law of the land is even harder than finding two more states to ratify it. The deadline for reaching the 38-state goal was in 1982. Supporters say Congress should be willing to waive the deadline in this #MeToo era.

More than 41 years ago, Indiana was the last state to ratify the amendment. It was a long and hard-fought battle. Conspiracy theorists always believed there was something sinister afoot. According to the Indianapolis Star, the leading Senate opponent of ratification “forecasted the measure would lead to homosexual marriage, sexual deviancy, female soldiers and motherless children.”

In February 1973, the amendment passed the House 53-45, but four years later, it still hadn't passed the Senate. On the morning of Jan. 18, 1977, the Senate was split 25 to 25, the Star recounted. But Sen. Wayne Townsend, a Hartford City Democrat, agreed to change his vote after receiving a phone call from President-elect Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. The amendment passed 26-24.

The ERA is actually pretty simple: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Will the “time's not up” movement gain traction?  Stay tuned.