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On May 31, the 92nd Illinois General Assembly adjourned without bringing ERA up for a vote.

ERA Mischief in Illinois 
Phyllis Schlafly sent the following letter to Illinois legislators on Apr. 27, 2001.

It comes as a surprise that someone is trying to dig up the dead-and-buried ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and pretend it's alive. Please don't be fooled. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on October 4, 1982 that ERA is officially dead because its time limit has expired. (NOW v. Idaho, 459 U.S. 809, 1982) (Also see St. Louis Post Dispatch, October 4, 1982)

The original Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) resolution, which passed Congress on March 22, 1972, set a time limit of "seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress" for the time period during which ERA advocates could attempt to get three-fourths of the state legislatures to ratify. When it became clear that 38 states would not ratify ERA by that deadline, Congress passed a new resolution purporting to extend the deadline to June 30, 1982.

The ERA Extension resolution was greeted with widespread public condemnation. The cartoonists and editorialists had a field day, comparing it to adding three more innings to a baseball game, or a fifth quarter to a football or basketball game, even though the game was not tied. Public reaction was so adverse that not a single additional state ratified ERA after the Time Extension was passed. No state has ratified ERA since January, 1977 -- 24 years ago! -- but five states rescinded their previous ratifications, and ERA was defeated in statewide referendums in nine states where the issue was submitted to the voters.

The Illinois General Assembly voted on ERA every year from 1972 to 1982 and decisively rejected it. No proposal ever had such exhaustive and repeated consideration by the Illinois Legislature. If you weren't in the Legislature then, I suggest that you ask some of the oldtimers what the ERA battles were like in those years (and if they want to fight them again).

Now, there is so much recent evidence to confirm the wisdom of Illinois's decision. This evidence comes from state court decisions in the states that foolishly put a "State ERA" in their state constitutions. These court decisions provide a "road map" to what is in store for Illinois and the nation if ERA ever becomes a part of our United States Constitution.

  • Abortion Funding: Without an ERA, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to have abortions paid for by public funds. (Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 1980) That's why Congress has been able to pass the Hyde Amendment each year since 1977, forbidding the use of federal tax funds for most abortions. The same policy is followed by 34 states, which prohibit the use of state tax funds used to perform most abortions.

    But the law is different in states that have a "State ERA." In New Mexico, the state supreme court ruled on Nov. 25, 1998 that ERA requires the state to pay for abortions in exactly the same way as any other medical procedure. The court reasoned that, since only women become pregnant or undergo abortions, the denial of taxpayer funding for them can be construed as sex discrimination. That logic dictates the conclusion that ERA makes taxpayer funding of abortion a constitutional right. (N.M. Right to Choose/NARAL v. Johnson , 975 P.2d 841, 1998)

    Likewise, the Connecticut Superior Court ruled that "the regulation that restricts the funding for abortions . . . violates Connecticut's Equal Rights Amendment." (Doe v. Maher, April 9, 1986) And, on December 7, 2000, the same result was reached by a state court in Texas, which also has a State ERA: "[W]e hold that the State's implicit adoption of the Hyde Amendment violates the Texas Equal Rights Amendment." (The Low-Income Women of Texas v. Bost , Texas 3rd Court of Appeals, No. 03-98-00209-CV, 2000)

  • Same-Sex Marriages: Without an ERA, Congress in 1996 was able to pass the Defense of Marriage Act (P.L. 104-199, codified at 1 U.S.C. 7), which states that, for purposes of federal law, "the word `marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." That federal law, and some 33 similar state laws, would be swept away if ERA would make same-sex marriages a constitutional right.

    The supreme court of Hawaii ruled in 1993 that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is sex discrimination and unconstitutional under Hawaii's State ERA. (Baehr v. Lewin, 852 P.2d 44, 1993) In order to undo the damage done by adding a State ERA to the Hawaii state constitution, Hawaii voters passed a new state constitutional amendment on Nov. 3, 1998, stating that "the legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples." With ERA in the U.S. Constitution, it would take a new U.S. constitutional amendment to restore the current law on marriage.

The American Bar Association Journal reported (August 1999, p. 56): "NOW [National Organization for Women], which didn't push to include abortion and gay rights the first time around, would do so if a new ERA passed."

The consensus that the old ERA is dead and that further consideration would have to start the process from scratch is shown by the fact that a new ERA resolution has been introduced into Congress in every session since 1983. The new ERA was voted down on November 15, 1983 and since then the ERA resolutions have been met with a deafening silence. Some ERA advocates lamely argue that ERA can be resuscitated because the 27th Amendment (limiting congressional pay raises) was ratified after more than two centuries -- but there was no time limit on that amendment. The clear time limit on ERA has already been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. Concepts such as "equality" and "fairness" cannot be advanced through dishonest procedures.

ERA has been in the grave for more than 18 years. Illinoisans do not want our courts to order tax-funded abortions or same-sex marriages. Please don't try to breathe new life into a rotting corpse. Let ERA rest in peace.

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