Lawmakers for the state of Illinois ratified the Equal Rights Amendment on Wednesday despite the fact that the 1982 deadline for ratification was well over 30 years ago. The Prairie State became the 37th state in the nation to give its stamp of approval to the amendment.
Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, while speaking to the Chicago Tribune says that it is not quite clear whether the amendment can become part of the United States Constitution. Stone added that there are many other provisions that guarantee equal rights for women but says the amendment could make a significant difference in some instances.
Supporters of the amendment have raised the argument that the deadline is now a moot point following 1992 ratification of the Madison Amendment that restricts changes in the salaries of sitting Congressmen. This amendment was originally introduced in 1789.
The decision to ratify the Madison Agreement sets the precedence that Congress does, in fact, have the authority to decide for itself whether or not a large passing of time causes an amendment to become less valid. The thinking is that the U.S. Congress could similarly decide that the ERA is still a viable amendment.
Legal opposition on the matter points out that the Madison Agreement had no deadline set for ratification which is not true for the Equal Rights Amendment.
An article in the William & Mary Journal made the additional supporting argument that the time limits placed on a proposing clause of proposed amendments are not legally relevant due to the fact that states vote to ratify amendments and not the proposal.
Attorney Alice Paul was credited with the original drafting of the Equal Rights Amendment and contains clauses that give Congress the power to use legislation to enforce the amendment. This power is effective two years following the ratification of the amendment.
The proposed ERA was originally sent to states for ratification in 1972 by Congress and was given a seven-year deadline at the time. This deadline was eventually extended to 1982.