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What Could ERA Ratification Really Mean?

Flickr User Tabor Roeder / (CC x 2.0)

Legislators of both partiesare calling on Governor Bruce Rauner to voice support for the Equal Rights Amendment. While a ratification proposal passed the state Senate, it has yet to be called for a vote in the House, where it appears there may not yet be enough votes to gain the supermajority needed. But what's really at stake?

Opponents say if the ERA were to be adopted, it could result in women being required to have a public presence in the same numbers as men in institutions such as the military. But that sort of rhetoric may be more about "scare tactics" than reality, says Vik Amar, a constitutional law expert and Dean of the University of Illinois College of Law. 

 At a hearing earlier this month, opponents also voiced concerns over abortion access they say the ERA would codify. Amar says that issue is a "wild card." Meanwhile, supporters say it's long past time for ratification, and passage would be symbolic as well as substantive. But just how far it might go is unclear. 

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." - The Equal Rights Amendment, as currently written

Amar says, "The question would be how Congress would treat the amendment, whether Congress would consider it part of the Constitution, whether the President would consider it part of the Constitution, whether states would consider it part of the Constitution and whether the courts would consider it part of the constitution." It's a big question.

Amar does say however that the Supreme Court has made multiple decisions since 1972 when the measure passed Congress supporting gender equality - and the ERA could help uphold those decisions. "You could see some backsliding or significant undoing of some of these major gender equality precedents, and certainly adoption of the ERA today would prevent that from happening," he said.

Listen to the above interview for more from Amar, and check out the links below for more  ERA coverage. 

Rachel's reports currently focus on education and equity. She's also reported extensively on arts, community & diverse culture.
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