On September 26, 2017, the Chicago Bar Association held a seminar on the ERA. Seminar speakers included: Professor Ann Lousin; Mary Kay Devine, Director, Community Initiatives, Women Employed (WE); Ann Houghtaling, Executive Director, HOPE Fair Housing Center; Senator Dan Biss (moderator); Representative Ann Williams, and Annie Williams, Indivisible.
Professor Lousin talked about the history of the ERA. All statutes in Illinois were reviewed for possible discrimination. It was determined that many statutes in Illinois were discriminatory to men. One argument against the ERA, relayed Professor Lousin, was that if the ERA were passed then women would be in combat However, she noted, the ERA has not been passed but women are in combat.
Mary Kay Devine discussed the wage gap. For every $1 a white man is paid all women are paid less, with Latino women earning the lowest. Women have to work a year to earn what men earn in nine months. A 12-year-old girl today would have to be past retirement age before the wage gap is closed. Illinois is considered one of seven states with strong protections. 13 states have poor protections. Women Employed sees a relationship between current laws and inequality.
Senator Dan Biss is the chief sponsor of ERA legislation. The “No salary history” bill is important. It passed with strong bipartisan support but Governor Rauner vetoed it. WE is leading a coalition to pass this law. It is important legislation for women because women make less and past wages have nothing to do with future performance.
Ann Houghtaling talked about a case filed against Peoria for an anti-nuisance law. If there is a call for services for the caller’s property three time the caller can be deemed a nuisance and potentially evicted. Often the calls for services are victims of domestic violence or stalking. In Milwaukee African American women with children are more likely to be evicted than someone five months behind in rent.
Representative Ann Williams reviewed the history of Phyllis Schaffley and the Eagle Forum in 1972 heading the fight against the ERA. 71 votes are currently needed for passage. The amendment must start in the State Senate but Senator Heather Steans won’t call it unless the votes are there because it would be a setback. There are no pro choice Republicans in either chamber.
The attendees at the seminar also viewed the film, Equal means Equal.