Blogs > Steve Hochstadt > Why Vote Against Equal Rights For Women?

Jun 5, 2018

Why Vote Against Equal Rights For Women?

tags: gender equality,equal rights,Illinois,ERA

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” That’s pretty simple and quite limited. Nothing about how we have to act in our personal lives. Just a clear statement that our governments cannot discriminate against women or men.


But it’s been controversial for a century, and still is not the law of our land. Most Republicans hate this idea.


This amendment to the US Constitution was just approved by the Illinois legislature. The Senate approved the measure 43-12. Then the House approved 72-45, making Illinois the 37th state to ratify the ERA.


Here’s how the voting went in the Senate: Democrats supported it unanimously, Republicans voted against it 12 to 8. In the House, 62 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted yes, 5 Democrats and 40 Republicans voted no. In committee hearings, Republicans were nearly unanimously opposed – one “yes” vote in the Senate Executive Committee, none in the House Human Services Committee.


Republicans opposed to the ERA talked about toilets in the 1970s, and talk about abortion today. Some Illinois Republican arguments against the ERA are lies, such as Rep. Peter Breen’s assertion: “The only alleged benefit ... that I’ve heard about ... is that it will expand taxpayer funding of abortions. They have no other thing they want to do.” Or the claim by the Illinois Family Institute that it’s about “eradicating sex as a legitimate characteristic on which to base reasonable distinctions.” Denial of equal rights is not “reasonable”.


Some Republicans can’t even imagine equality. Rep. Jeanne Ives doesn’t believe it’s possible: “The fact of the matter is that women will not be protected until men decide to protect them and decide to stop the sexual harassment decide to stop the domestic abuse, decide to stop the sex trafficking, decide in the work places when they are in charge that they will protect the women under their charge.” This is a very different view of how the state should treat gender. Men will decide when and if they wish to “protect” women who are “in their charge”.


Republicans were not forced to vote against the ERA to show Party loyalty. Rep. Steve Andersson said, “I’m glad that the common sense, the recognition that women deserve and are entitled to the same protections as men won the day. What we’re going to do is raise the level of all ships. Men, women, everyone does better because of this.”


I would not have known how my own representative to the Illinois Legislature, C.D. Davidsmeyer, voted on the ERA, so I did some internet research. Davidsmeyer’s home page explains in detail his objections to the budget bill that had just been passed. There’s another big story headlined, “Davidsmeyer’s Back Pay Legislation Passes House”. Some undeserved back-patting here: Davidsmeyer was one of about 50 co-sponsors, a follower, not a leader. Other items he thinks are important to communicate to his constituents: an announcement about Opportunity Zones in our district and a report of his photo-op with FFA students.


Not a word about the ERA. Davidsmeyer voted “no”.


The website of the Illinois General Assembly shows that the ERA bill was filed back in February 2017, passed the Illinois Senate this April, and the bill “Arrived in House” on April 11. Over the next couple of weeks, 41 members of the House signed on as co-sponsors. Davidsmeyer had plenty of time to think about his vote.


Republicans have not always made a special point to be hostile to women. From 1923 to 1990, there were more Republican than Democratic women in the Illinois House every term but 1957-1964. The number of Republican women has fallen since the 1990s, while the number of Democratic women has doubled, lately reaching 3 times the Republican total.


Why did Rep. Davidsmeyer decide to vote no?


He wasn’t yet born when discrimination against women became a national issue in the 1960s, or when the ERA was proposed, ratified quickly by 34 states, then stalled during the 1970s. His generation of men and women, which includes my children, has enjoyed more gender equality than any in American history. The reduction of inequality was a direct result of decades of struggle against the forces of “no”, and the ERA was central to that struggle. Every day we still see the traumas of inequality in the news, partly because the ERA is still not the law of the land. Is Davidsmeyer okay with that? Does he agree with Ives that “women will not be protected until men decide to protect them,” and he’s not going to be one of those men?


Does he think it’s okay when “Equality of rights under the law” are “denied or abridged by the United States or by any State”? Why is that the Illinois Republican consensus?


Doesn’t he have something to say about his vote on an amendment to the US Constitution? Why isn’t he saying it in public?


I think the whole issue makes him uncomfortable. His vote against treating women equally makes me uncomfortable.


Steve Hochstadt

Jacksonville IL

Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, June 5, 2018

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