B: NJ Fighting for Gender Equality in Trenton

Every year, the last few days of June in Trenton are dominated with talk about the budget – and rightly so. This year, when you factor in consideration of the rushed higher education merger plan, it is easy for news on other pieces of legislation to be drowned out by the big-ticket items. I wanted to make sure that you all knew about two significant advances we made yesterday to strengthen gender equality in New Jersey.

First, Senate Minority Leader Kean and Governor Christie agreed to my amendment to S-2070, which means that the Division on Women will remain a division when moved from the Department of Community Affairs to the Department of Children and Families. Originally, the Governor wanted to reduce the Division on Women to an office, diminishing the stature and power of the premiere agency of state government focused on supporting and advocating for women throughout New Jersey. This will make sure that the Division on Women still has a seat at the table in the new DCF. You can read my full statement over on Facebook. The final vote is scheduled for Monday.

Second, the Senate passed SR-50, which urges Congress to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act.” We all know that Republicans in Washington are doing everything possible to block this crucial piece of legislation that would help reduce the 23% gender pay gap we see nationwide. The Republicans in Trenton weren’t much more help, with only three voting in favor while the rest remained silent (including Senator Kyrillos). Ensuring income equality is too important to all New Jersey families for legislators to stay silent, which is why I spoke on the floor of the Senate in support of the resolution.

In a nation where we hold paramount equality and justice paramount for all citizens, it is becoming ever clearer that for too many women these are mere words. Mangled language and misrepresentations of the truth have contributed to the myth that there is no gender wage gap.

And, you know what? I don’t blame those who doubt the fact that a women who works full time earns 77 cents for every dollar her male counterparts make, because in the United States of America – the land of freedom and opportunity for everyone – that idea seems hard to believe.

But numbers simply do not lie.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is about our values as a nation. By putting our women at a disadvantage, we set a dangerous precedent for our girls. Our efforts to strengthen them – to teach them that their only limits are the ones they establish for themselves – are absolutely futile if we continue to live in a world where a woman’s worth and intellectual contributions too often go unnoticed, a world in which equal pay for equal work remains an ideal and not a reality.

I say this both as a woman and as a mother. I say this because there is no reason that my daughters should have to live in a world where they have less of a chance at financial success than my son.

The United States of America is a world leader. Our nation sets an example for others to follow. It is one of innovation. It is one of progress. But we cannot expect to move forward as leaders if we continue to leave our women behind. And so it is with great urgency that I join my colleagues in asking Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

It was the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who once said that “A right deferred is a right denied.”

The rights of this nation’s women, for too long, have been denied. We are here today to let Congress know the time is not now – it was yesterday. This – the Paycheck Fairness Act, the fate of today’s women and generations of women to come – our daughters and granddaughters – cannot wait.

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