Language already contained in the Illinois Constitution could serve as a model for the nation according to State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) who is sponsoring a resolution appealing to Congress to call for a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of proposing the language to the states for ratification as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“We should be doing whatever we can to promote women’s rights, but what I am proposing is a better and more viable alternative than passing the Equal Rights Amendment,” said Brady. “Our state constitution gives everyone equal protection under the law and that is a great model for the nation to follow.”
Article 1 Section 18 of the Illinois Constitution states, “The equal protection of the laws shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex by the State or its units of local government and school districts.”
According to Brady, the “equal protection” language in Illinois’ constitution is better than the “equality of rights” language contained in the ERA. Essentially the difference is that “equal protection” says that no person is denied the same protection of the law as others in the same class, while “equality of rights under the law” says that all people have the exact same rights. “Equal protection” is important because it allows for subtle distinctions that help women, like not mandating women in the military serve in combat.
An example often used to explain why reasonable distinctions should be made is social security benefits. Currently, these benefits are set up so that a stay at home wife will receive benefits based on her husband’s social security even after he has passed away. Under the “equality of rights” language contained in the ERA, this widow would not be entitled to those same benefits because they would not be based on her own personal earnings.
Additionally, Brady says that his solution is the more viable option. “The deadline for ratifying the ERA was June 30 of 1982. That deadline passed more than 30 years ago. While ratifying the amendment as a symbolic gesture is a lovely idea, it doesn’t do much to actually help women,” Brady pointed out. “What we can do to help women is to kick-start the process to incorporate the language in Illinois’ constitution into the U.S. Constitution and ensure that women have equal protection under the law.”