The ERA in Illinois


One of EQUAL MEANS EQUAL’s most important and successful campaigns was the fight to ratify the ERA in the Land of Lincoln. A hard-fought battle that had been ongoing since the 1970s, Illinois’ approval of the Amendment had been elusive until the state legislature officially passed a ratification bill on May 30, 2018.

EQUAL MEANS EQUAL set about ratifying the ERA in Illinois using a multifaceted advocacy approach over many months. Our actions included:

  • Directly educating legislators about the importance of the ERA
  • Participating in legislative hearings
  • Holding screenings of EQUAL MEANS EQUAL and/or Legalize Equality with Q&A
  • Organizing and participating in public protests and rallies including mobilizing women
    and our allies from all over the state to come to Springfield and stand up for their rights
  • Organizing and participating in exhibitions of creative works centered around the cause of the ERA, including performance art

Several of these strategies were successfully employed in the 2018 Illinois campaign for the ERA.


  • On February 7, 2017 State Senator Heather Steans introduced SJRCA0004, a Senate Joint Resolution ratifying the ERA.
  • On March 14, 2018, EQUAL MEANS EQUAL partnered with the Winston & Strawn LLP law firm in Chicago to lobby legislators to ratify the Amendment. EME embarked upon a series of events ranging from screenings of the EQUAL MEANS EQUAL documentary, panel discussions, and even a Second City comedy show co-hosted by the EME team.
  • On March 17, EME members attended the Rainbow/PUSH luncheon, “Ain’t I A Woman?” centered around the importance of ratifying the ERA.
  • On April 10, 2018, EQUAL MEANS EQUAL’s VP Natalie White joined with local organizations to lobby the Illinois Congress, distributing flyers as well as copies of Legalize Equality. That same day EME President Kamala Lopez, Jules Woods, and Rachel Donlan went to the April 10 Equal Pay Rally in Daley Plaza in Chicago to emphasize how the ERA is necessary for equal pay to become a reality.
  • The following day, on April 11, 2018, SJRCA0004 passed the Illinois Senate by a margin of 43 to 12 in favor of the bill.
  • May 7 saw the Illinois House of Delegates’ Rules Committee hold a hearing on the ERA where EME President Kamala Lopez spoke along with ERA advocates including Nevada State Senator Patricia Spearman.
  • After the hearing the EME team headed to Springfield to host a large public rally.
  • EQUAL MEANS EQUAL was a producing partner of the Mother’s Day May 8, 2018 rally for equal rights in Springfield and brought in busloads of equality activists from across the state to listen to speakers advocate for ERA ratification including Illinois House Majority Leader Lou Lang and then candidate J.B. Pritzker, who became the Governor of Illinois.
  • On May 16, 2018, the ERA proposal was the focus of a Human Services Committee hearing. EME encouraged supporters of equality to fill out witness slips in favor of the ratification bill in anticipation of the hearing. Thanks to the efforts of EME team member Lizzy Jagger, one of the participants in EME’s witness slip proposal was none other than rock legend Mick Jagger. The bill passed the Human Services Committee by a 7-5 margin in favor of the resolution.

On May 30, 2018, the resolution passed the Illinois House of Representatives, making the Land of Lincoln the 37th state to ratify the Amendment.

Upon ratification Illinois House Majority Leader Lou Lang said, in a letter to EQUAL MEANS

“Illinois made Herstory by becoming the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. As you know, I have been working in the House for twenty-five years to accomplish this, and without your help, this year’s vote would have ended as another failed attempt. Your involvement and tireless work in the process of achieving ratification was remarkable, and for that I am sincerely grateful.
Our democracy thrives when people take action to achieve the change they desire. Your exemplary leadership and strategic actions were felt throughout the state and the nation. You truly made a difference.”