In November of 2012, after 20 years together, my then partner and I had a civil union ceremony. My now wife wanted to invite more people than the facility allowed but I explained that our “wedding” did not need to represent the entire LGBT revenue stream in DuPage County for that year. Naturally, our holiday card for that year was from the glorious day. It showed the two of us beaming like fools who’d just won the jackpot for Bingo at the state fair and our three beautiful children. What we got in response to this happy card from some honest friends and family was this: “I just assumed that you were married because you’ve been together for as long as I’ve known you.” Or, “Well, I feel dumb. ‘Cause I know that you still don’t have the same protections my husband and I clearly take for granted.” Many of our friends and even relations thought that we had already been married though it still wasn’t legal in Illinois until 2014.
There is a lot of discussion swirling around about rights, privileges and entitlements these days. Each play a part in the fabric of our nation’s founding having been used as weapons and carrots for different reasons toward various groups of our poor and tired masses. And, like in my personal story above, they are often assumed to be there when they have never become law. That is the response many have to the ERA, Equal Rights Amendment, I thought that was already law?
The history of the ERA, The Equal Rights Amendment, occasionally reads like a trashy novel. There is passion, fighting and the ending is wholly unsatisfying and undefined. Spoiler alert, the ERA is not yet a done deal. Here are five key, simple facts:
1. Women, and men, have been trying to pass this Amendment since 1923.
2. The critical language of the Amendment is written thus, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
3. The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in 1972 but fell three states short of the needed 38 to ratify it, or make it part of the constitution.
4. The following states have not yet ratified the ERA: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. Many of these states have a long history of denying equality. But, Illinois?
5. The amount of money lost to women each year as a result can be represented by a loss of earned wages, a reduction in the purchasing power of families headed by women, diminishment of financial preparedness for women who live far longer than men, and a host of other hard dollar
There are many great organizations in Illinois and around the country that are trying to right this very insidious wrong. We have learned in a few short months that women are galvanized like never before. Indivisible Naperville has chosen to address this extremely important issue as one of our core
We have the power to do something about this. Nationally, women are more likely to be registered to vote than men. Women in the United States are also more likely to vote than men. There were 7.99 million registered active voters and 758,000 inactive voters in Illinois in October 2016. Of those voters in 2015 Illinois had 65.9% of women registered to vote, 50.5% of those registered actually voted. Is there more we can do? Yes. We need to find women who are not participating and engage them in conversation, register them to vote (online is simple), and encourage their participation in our group, any group, in any way. We need to try and draw in women from all walks of life and let them know that their vote matters and we can provide a forum for participation. This will increase our ability to elect more women, move womens issues to the forefront and continue to increase our voice.
We know that the Senate of Illinois had passed the ERA this year and yet it would not be called in the house unless the votes were there for passage. It looks very doubtful it will be called in a special session so we will need to push this again in the fall. With Nevada passing the ERA this spring it is now down to a 2 state solution and many believe Illinois and Virginia are the 2 states that could pass it. In closing remember what RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) said when she was asked when there will be enough women on the supreme court? Her answer is – when there are nine.