At Tuesday’s presidential debate, both candidates were confronted with a question about equal pay for women, who currently make 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. President Obama touted his first bill signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gave women more flexibility to sue over pay inequity.
Romney avoided the question, instead choosing to talk about how he made an effort to hire women during his governorship (a claim later contested by Massachusetts women’s advocacy groups). Soon after the debate, however, senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie told the Huffington Post that, while Romney would not repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Act, he “was opposed to it at the time” and would not have signed it.
This admission was the most definitive position on pay equity the campaign has released. Romney has long refused to disclose his stance on equal pay initiatives like the Lilly Ledbetter Act or the failed Paycheck Fairness Act, which sought to protect employees from wage discrimination based on gender or ethnicity. Lilly Ledbetter herself released a statement after the debate, saying, “If Romney was truly concerned about women in this economy, he’d take a stand against paycheck discrimination. Instead, he has remained silent and refused to speak out for equal pay for women and their families.”
Gillespie is now backing away from his prior statement: “I was wrong when I said last night Governor Romney opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. He never weighed in on it.” However, Gillespie avoided saying that Romney would have supported it instead. ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser explains more here.