On eve of sexual harassment allegations, Lou Lang fought for ERA ratification
Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) debated at length about ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment on May 30 only to be accused the following day of sexual harassment, leaving him to resign from his leadership role as deputy majority leader of the state House.
Of all House GOP comments during the debate of SJRCA4, the most compelling was Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who was one of the few people who know of the accusations to come.
After noting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Title 7 laws in place and how women have won multi-million-dollar lawsuits over sexual harassment, Ives said during the debate that laws do not need to be changed, men do.
“Women will not be protected until men decide to protect them and decide to stop the sexual harassment,” said Ives, who stood side-by-side with Lang’s accuser, Maryann Loncar, the next day when she announced the sexual abuse allegations against him.
“What we need is great men to protect women and this body knows it.”
Ives said after numerous instances of sexual harassment being filed in Springfield against elected officials, the abuse “by some of the most politically influential folks in that state,” is not a secret.
“We know how to solve this problem of equal rights for women,” Ives said. “The rules are on the books.”
Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) went right to how the amendment would promote abortion and why that is the main reason the ERA was never ratified by all the states.
“In 1983, they tried to reintroduce the ERA and a simple amendment was added, ‘this will have no impact on abortion rights, yea or nay,’ and Congress proponents refused to allow that to the floor, and so Congress killed that measure,” Breen said. “That was the only thing standing between this country having the ERA or not.”
After Breen urged a 'no' vote, Rep. Steven Andersson (R-Geneva) had the opposite opinion, saying ERA ratification is about recognizing the status of women today.
“Proponents say we need to protect women; we need to honor them; we need to put them on a pedestal,” Andersson said. “I don’t want to do that. I want to empower them; because the better they are, the better we are as a people.”
Women are fully up to the challenge of standing on their own, according to Andersson, who said they do not need his help or protection.
“They can handle our world; and quite frankly, I think they make far better decisions than I do,” he added.
Like Andersson, Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) promoted the measure, using the Suffrage movement to prove his point. He said seven years before the 19th Amendment of the Constitution was ratified to allow female voting rights, Illinois’ 48th General Assembly passed SB63, which also allowed women to cast ballots.
Harris then quoted a statement made when SB63 passed.
“With the stroke of a pen, he the governor added as many as 1,600,000 new voters,” Harris said. “This triumph, the first in a major state east of the Mississippi River, changed everything.”
Harris said the impact of ratifying the ERA could be just as great.
“I don’t believe Illinois should be a laggard on an issue like this,” Harris said.
Countering his two GOP peers, Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) told Lang he could not support the bill due to its verbiage and asked the sponsor if he would be willing to alter the text.
“Sir, we cannot change the language that is in front of us,” Lang said.
Skillicorn said as he read the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, he did not see any separating treatment of sexes absent of some compelling state interests.
“This is a state that is in deep financial crisis … yet we are going to debate something that is older than some of the members in this chamber,” Skillicorn said. “So, I would urge a 'no' vote.”
Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) said he knows words matter.
“The language in the amendment you have here, the equality of rights, is different than what we have in our state constitution that guarantees equal protection under the law,” Morrison said to Lang.
Morrison said in the end, men and women are different and the present law recognizes the “reasonable common-sense differences.”
If anything, ratifying the ERA will allow for further discrimination and cause more possible harm, according to Morrison, adding five states that have ratified the ERA are now attempting to rescind their decision.
Admitting her heart was racing as she spoke, Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said she has one daughter and one son, and nobody pushes either around because of the way they were raised.
“I want my daughter to know she can stand up for herself and my son to know he should respect women,” Bryant said.
Women and men deal with issues differently because God wired them differently, according to Bryant, who said that does not mean genders are not equal.
“We can stand up for our own rights ladies,” Bryant said. “My whole life, I haven’t needed the Equal Rights Amendment, because, by God, nobody is going to take my rights away from me.”
Concluding the more-than-two-hour debate, rather than comment, Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) used his time to request a vote verification, which he was given at 72-45 with SJRCA4 passing the House.