The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, passed by Congress in 2009, was a huge victory for women in the workplace. Considering that women still make about 77 cents to the male dollar, the Fair Pay Act provided them greater legal recourse in suing employers with unequal pay. Forty-two states have also passed similar bills that mirror the act on a statewide level.
But Texas Governor Rick Perry is determined to ensure that Texas does not become one of those states.
The Texas legislature has recently been debating its own state-level version of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, called HB 950, and the bill was approved by both of the state's chambers. Proponents of HB 950 were almost sure that it would pass, until they received a notice that the governor himself had vetoed it.
Perry has since given two reasons for his veto, neither of them compelling. The first is that the law mirrors the federal act and would create unnecessary regulations. Half of this allegation is true. The law does mirror the federal bill, but for good reason. It not only ensures that state law on equal pay legislation matches federal law, but it allows women to pursue those same cases in state courts instead of federal courts, making it vastly less expensive and more convenient for plaintiffs. That ensures that women of all pay grades, and not just well-paid white collar workers with leave, can sue for their right to equal pay. It's not creating extra regulations, merely sensible ones.
Perry's second reason was a vague assertion that it would hurt Texas's economy, which is patently untrue. Perry did not provide any facts or evidence to back this claim up, nor did he even provide a concrete reason for how the act might hinder economic activity. When journalists attempted to contact Perry or his staff with questions on his veto, they were ignored.
The puzzling part is that this veto really makes no political sense for Rick Perry. It wasn't a proud moment that would rally his fellow Republicans, but it certainly did invoke the wrath of several activist groups and his fellow representatives in the state. Perry has worked hard in the past to mitigate the GOP's anti-woman image, proudly hiring numerous women for important positions on his staff, including having a female chief of staff until February of this year. Why he would then veto this bill, which is crucial for Texas women fighting for their wages, is a mystery.
But what is clear is that as long as Republican politicians keep vetoing legislation like this, it's unquestionable that the GOP's War on Women, no matter how much they deny it, is still ongoing.