In another astounding act of political ambivalence, Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney sat by on Monday, as Republican senators defeated the Paycheck Fairness Act by a minuscule margin in a procedural vote. He was unwilling to take a stand on the issue.
The Democratic-sponsored bill, aimed to increase women’s ability to file lawsuits against employers for gender discrimination, would have allowed the federal government to collect salary information in order to detect pay differences based on discriminatory criteria.
Lilly Ledbetter, the woman who brought pay discrimination into the headlines following her lawsuit against former employer the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, has issued a public letter to Romney entreating him to take a stand and support the equal pay issue. She has yet to receive a response.
Romney's lack of a clear stance on the issue demonstrates Republicans' willingness to put partisan politics before the well-being of the American people. Many analysts believe that, had Romney publicly supported the bill, it would have swayed Republican senators towards, ensuring the bill’s success.
The subsequent defeat of the bill, which many believe would have been a common sense step towards gender equality, can be attributed to the Romney campaign’s unwillingness to support anything that appears to be associated with Obama.
Because vocally opposing the bill (which 9 out of 10 Americans, and 77% of Republicans support) would have been political suicide, Romney has instead chosen the easy way out. While feigning indecision and paying lip service to gender equality, Romney hasn't done anything to support legislation that would make equality a reality.
This move demonstrates the candidate’s cowardice when faced with making political decisions that may cause him to either lose popular support or ally with the opposition.
Many Republicans claim that the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first official bill signed by President Obama upon entering office, is sufficient in equalizing pay for American women. In reality, the Ledbetter Act is only a partial step forwards towards gender equality.
Further legislation is needed to ensure that women have the ability to verify whether they are being discriminated against in the workplace and to take the appropriate measures to negotiate and secure equal pay.
By denying support for legislation that promotes transparency in income matters, Romney is demonstrating his unwillingness to defend the interests of a large percentage of the American population. In order for women to make an educated decision come election time, Romney needs to stand up and demonstrate his stance on this important issue.