Washington Update (February 14, 2014)

Roses and chocolate are so last year. What do women really need for Valentine’s Day (and every day of the year)? Fair pay! And we’ve got the perfect card for the occasion.

Share our Valentine’s Day e-card with your friends, co-workers, family – even your members of Congress!

This Valentine’s Day, let’s change the conversation: The gender pay gap is real, and it hurts America’s women and their families. When women receive fair pay, we all do better – that’s what women really need.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Liz Owens

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One Thing You Must Do

Congress isn’t the only one that needs a Valentine’s Day message: President Obama can also act to give women fair pay! Urge President Obama to issue an anti-retaliation executive order today.

But Because You Want to Do More

Share this blog post to help explain to people why the moment is right for President Obama’s executive order, and then ask them to join you in taking action.

Get Social

How can you resist sharing the Valentine’s Day e-card mentioned in the opening message? We’ve also got one about diamonds if you’re looking for a new Facebook cover photo.

New Resource

Don’t forget to register for a listening session with the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault! The task force is hosting a series of virtual, public listening sessions this month to gain input from students, survivors, researchers, national experts, victim advocates, higher education administrations, and other campus stakeholders.

Top Stories

President Obama Signs Minimum Wage Executive Order
On Wednesday, President Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour. This change will be effective on new contracts beginning in 2015 and will impact hundreds of thousands of workers. During the ceremony, the president reiterated his call for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers above its current level of $7.25 per hour.

  • But that’s not the only action we need: Tell President Obama that federal contractors should be able to discuss their new wages without fear of punishment.

Number of ACA Enrollees Increases By 30 Percent in January
Also on Wednesday, the Obama administration announced that more than 1.1 million people signed up for health insurance through state and federal exchanges in January, bringing the total to approximately 3.3 million enrollees since the system opened in October 2013. Young adults (ages 18-34) represented 27 percent of enrollees, and women were 55 percent. Also this week, the administration announced it would delay until 2015 the requirement that employers with more than 100 full-time employees provide health benefits or pay fines. Employers with more than 50 but less than 100 full-time employees will gain an extra year on top of that to provide health benefits or pay fines.

Justice Department to Fully Recognize Same-Sex Marriages
This week, the Department of Justice said that it will give equal recognition to same-sex marriages in every program it administers, including prison visits, spousal privilege in testimony, and compensation to spouses of deceased law enforcement officers. This announcement is part of the federal government’s efforts to provide equal rights to same-sex marriages following the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act. In other news, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional and that the state must recognize these marriages.

State Spotlight: District of Columbia

AAUW Supports D.C. Title IX Bill
AAUW submitted testimony in support of the proposed Title IX Athletic Equity Act. The legislation would help close opportunity gaps in D.C. high schools by requiring schools to disclose student athlete participation rates and how much they spend on sports for male and female students. AAUW continues to advocate at the federal level for a similar bill that would affect high schools nationwide.

Cheer of the Week

After heated debate, the House and Senate finally passed legislation to lift the debt ceiling, meaning the federal government will not default on its obligations. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation, which will lift the debt ceiling until March 2015.

Jeer of the Week

In a column this week, Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto said that campus sexual assaults involving alcohol can be equally blamed on the assailant and the victim. Shame on Taranto for perpetuating the myth that students who sexually assault their classmates don’t need to take responsibility for their actions.

Bits and Pieces

  • On February 6, the Department of Justice announced it would begin pilot programs to enforce new protections for Native American victims of domestic abuse. The new protections are part of the AAUW-supported Violence Against Women Act, which closed a loophole that prevented the prosecution of non-Native American assailants who abused Native American women on tribal land. These protections will go into effect for most tribal lands in March 2015.
  • This week, the New Hampshire Union Leader published an editorial calling the gender pay gap “complete hooey.” This editorial ignored several studies that demonstrate a gender pay gap, including AAUW’s own research that found a pay gap one year after college graduation.
  • In 2014 election news, Reps. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Gary Miller (R-CA) announced they will not run for re-election.

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