To the Editor:
Ninety-four percent of the American public believe the U.S. Constitution should include equal rights for men and women. Support is overwhelming in both political parties. Eighty percent believe the Constitution already does guarantee equal rights. However, as former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia succinctly concluded, the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination against women, according to Jessica Newirth’s. 2015 book “Equal Means Equal.”
The courts have denied women justice for pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and gender-based violence. The courts have undermined, not strengthened, efforts to remedy sex discrimination. For instance, the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no federal or constitutional remedy for women when state or local police fail to protect their safety, either by failing to prosecute sexual abuse on college campuses, or by failing to enforce legal orders of protection. Thus, a Constitutional remedy is needed.
Illinois is poised to be able to challenge this deplorable situation. Within the next couple of weeks, the Illinois legislature will have the opportunity to vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The Amendment would add to the Constitution the requirement that: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
This amendment would guarantee equal rights for both women and men. The Amendment was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of Congress in 1972, with the support of both political parties. Yet, ratification also was needed by 38 states. Despite the bipartisan support of various presidents, the ratification process stalled in 1982 with only 35 states ratifying the amendment. Illinois was not among the 35. Subsequent ratification votes in 2003 and 2014 passed the Illinois House and Senate, but not both together. The ratification process was re-energized in March when Nevada voted for ratification. Illinois could become the 37th state to ratify the amendment. We need to let our state legislators know that equality of rights is a fundamental element of who we are as Americans, one that should be enshrined in the Constitution.
Meredith Reid Sarkees