Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County;
the Hon. Rodney A. Scott, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied May 31, 1974.
Defendant, Delbert Ellis, was indicted in the circuit court of Macon County on one count of forgery and two counts of burglary. He entered a plea of guilty to each count, his petition for probation was denied and he was sentenced to three concurrent terms of 2 to 6 years in the penitentiary. The appellate court, holding that section 2-7(1) of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 37, par. 702-7(1)) was unconstitutional, reversed the convictions (10 Ill. App.3d 216) and we granted the People's petition for leave to appeal as a matter of right under Rule 317. 50 Ill.2d R. 317.
At the time the offenses were committed, and when sentenced, defendant was 17 years of age. Section 2-7(1) of the Juvenile Court Act then provided:
"Except as provided in this Section, no boy who was under 17 years of age or girl who was under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged offense may be prosecuted under the criminal laws of this State or for violation of an ordinance of any political subdivision thereof."
In concluding that the section was unconstitutional the appellate court reasoned that the failure to provide the procedural protection of the Juvenile Court Act, before prosecution as an adult, to a 17-year-old male defendant, and the granting of such protection to a similarly situated female defendant, resulted in a denial of equal protection of the laws under section 18 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of 1970 (Ill. Const. (1970), art. I, sec. 18), which provides:
"The equal protection of the laws shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex by the State or its units of local government and school districts."
The People, citing People v. McCalvin, 55 Ill.2d 161, and People v. Pardo, 47 Ill.2d 420 (appeal dismissed for want of a substantial Federal question, Pardo v. Illinois, 402 U.S. 992, 29 L.Ed.2d 158, 91 S.Ct. 2179), contend that the classification created in section 2-7(1) did not constitute a denial of equal protection under the Federal or Illinois constitutions. They argue, too, that section 18 of the Bill of Rights does not affect the power of the General Assembly to create reasonable classifications.
Defendant argues that Pardo and McCalvin are readily distinguishable and do not control the decision here for the reason that the crimes in those cases were committed and the sentences imposed prior to the effective date of the Constitution of 1970.
Section 18 of article I was proposed on the floor of the convention as an amendment to the report of the Bill of Rights Committee. (5 Record of Proceedings, Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention 3669 (hereinafter cited as Proceedings).) It is apparent from the debates that the purpose of the amendment was to guarantee rights for females equal to those of males. (5 Proceedings 3669-3677.) The opponents of the amendment argued that women's rights were adequately protected under section 2 of article I, which provides:
"No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor be denied the equal protection of the laws."
The proponents of the amendment argued that the courts had interpreted the equal protection clause in such a manner that classifications based on sex were common and proper. (5 Proceedings 3675-3676.) The proponents' argument finds support in Pardo, in which we stated:
"* * * `it requires neither extended discussion nor citation of authority for the proposition that age and the differences existing between the sexes are proper bases for legislative classification.' [Citation.] Illinois has not been unique in distinguishing between males and females on the basis of age for the purpose of determining their juvenile status. (See, e.g., Vernon's Ann. Tex. Civ. Stat., art. 2338-1, sec. 3; 10 Okla. Stat. (1969 supp.) sec. 1101.) This ...