Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart said Friday there will be a big push in the next Legislative Session to pass a bill ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution now that Illinois has approved it, leaving just one more state needed for adoption.

“We only need one more state. There’s 13,” that have not ratified what could become the 28th Amendment, Stewart said Friday. “I want us to be the one that clinches it…. This is the year. This is it. It’s gotta get done.”

On Thursday the Illinois House of Representatives voted to approve a bill ratifying the amendment in that state, making Illinois the 37th state to approve it. Thirty-eight are needed to enshrine it in the U.S. Constitution.

Bills to ratify the ERA in Florida are introduced every year in the Florida Legislature, last year by state Sen. Audrey Gibson, the Jacksonville Democrat. That bill was never heard in a committee, like previous efforts.

Stewart said she and other ERA backers are counting on several factors: more women getting elected to the Florida Senate, increasing interest in the amendment because of the #MeToo movement [which was cited as a major factor in Illinois,] and that the next state to say yes gets to be the one that gets credit for enshrining it in the Constitution, if that happens.

“Our state can be the one to finally declare that in this nation, no matter where a woman lives or works, her rights under the law are fully protected,”  the Orlando Democrat stated in a news release.

The Equal Rights Amendment states simply that, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”  Congress approved it and it was sent to the states for consideration of ratification in 1972. There is some legal dispute over whether the amendment can now be considered adopted with 38 states, since a time limit expired.

The states that have not ratified it are Utah, Arizona and a block of 11 mostly southern states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

“Surely, with the dawn of the #MeToo movement and the reckoning many powerful men have been forced to confront, Florida can join the 21st century to finally ratify the ERA and stop sexual discrimination and harassment in American culture,” Stewart added. “For too many years, legislation has been filed, and it has yet to be heard. This is our year to put the ratification into Florida law and no longer be one of a handful of antiquated nay-sayers.”

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