On October 18, 2018, the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (“IWIL”) Training Academy honored the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois at its Trailblazer’s Award Reception for the WBAI’s work in support of Illinois’ ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”). The IWIL Training Academy, founded by Loretta Durbin, trains women to run for elected office, seek public appointments, and govern effectively at all levels in Illinois.
The WBAI and its members rallied behind this cause and showed strong support for the ERA. During the course of the campaign to secure Illinois’ ratification of the ERA, the WBAI conducted a post-card writing campaign to legislators, showing members’ support for ratification, utilized its social media to educate members about the status of the ERA and encouraged them to get involved by submitting witness slips in support of ratification, and hosted a phone bank, calling across the state, to encourage Illinois residents to contact their representatives, asking them to vote YES on ratification.
The work of the WBAI and many other organizations and advocacy groups paid off: On May 30, 2018, the Illinois General Assembly voted in support of ratification, making Illinois the 37th state to ratify the ERA.
Illinois’s vote was long overdue. In 1972, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved the ERA and set a seven-year deadline for three-quarters of the states – or 38 – to ratify. The deadline was later extended to 1982, but that deadline passed with only 35 states on board. Back then, Illinois’s vote against ratification ended the ERA’s chances; a stain on the state’s history that women’s groups have been fighting ever since. Although the deadline for ratification has long passed, some lawmakers and activists believe that if the magic number 38 is reached, retroactive ratification can be enacted.
Activists and legislators in Virginia and Arizona are currently working towards securing that final, 38th vote. The movement hit a snag on January 22, 2019 when the bill to ratify the Amendment did not get enough votes to get out of a Virginia House subcommittee. The fight continues in Virginia, however, as supporters, many of whom campaigned on a promise to pass the ERA, work to gain support and secure the votes necessary for ratification. Furthermore, supporters of the ERA in Arizona are moving closer to securing its ratification, capitalizing on changes to the legislature from the 2018 election that elected more ERA supporters.
Natalie Scruton Federle is Corporate Counsel at Outcome Health and specializes in employment law. Natalie is also on the WBAI Board of Directors and serves as co-chair of several committees and events.