President Barack Obama has just signed his first piece of legislation — and in a move that will hold much symbolism for women and all invested in their equality, it was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Ledbetter, now 70, became an icon for Obama during his campaign for the White House. Obama escorted her into the East Room this morning for the signing ceremony, and led a prolonged round of applause for her as they stood together at the podium.
“We are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness,” Obama said before signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which makes clear that workers may bring a lawsuit for up to six months after they receive any paycheck that they allege is discriminatory.
” . . . While this bill bears her name, Lilly knows this story isn’t just about her,” Obama said. “It’s the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn — women of color even less — which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.”
The law is an early emblem of the more liberal tilt the federal government is likely to take now that Democrats control both houses of Congress as well as the White House.
Among those enthusiastically looking on were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who Obama praised for leading passage of the bill in the House; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose historic bid to become the first U.S. female president ended when Obama secured the Democratic nomination; first lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
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Obama said he was signing the bill this morning not only in honor of Ledbetter, “but in honor of those who came before her. Women like my grandmother who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day . . .
“And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us,” Obama added, “because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.”
Yup, I’ll admit it: that brings a little tear to my eye.
I couldn’t find any images yet of Obama signing the the bill into law. Once they’re available, I’ll post some links; because that sounds like one kickass crowd.
I’ll tell you, there are a lot of things that could be said about how there is more work to be done, and how this should only be the beginning. All of that would be true. But right now, I’m just going to savor the moment.
- Tell Congress to Vote for Fair Pay by Cara January 6, 2009
- Ledbetter bill passed by the Senate by Rachel January 23, 2009
- Obama Plans Action on Discriminatory Supreme Court Ruling by Cara January 6, 2009
- A Story in Pictures by Jill January 29, 2009
- Just to close the loop… by Rachel January 29, 2009