April 12 marks Equal Pay Day and Civil War Sesquicentennial

Today is an important day for two reasons:

Reason 1: Today is Equal Pay Day, a national awareness day highlighting the gap between men’s and women’s wages in America. This year’s Equal Pay Day falls on April 12 to mark how far into 2011 the average woman must work in order to earn what the average man earned by the end of 2010.

Since Equal Pay Day was established, the gender wage gap has barely budged, moving from 74 percent in 1996 to 77 percent in 2010. And while the unemployment rate for the general public is 8.8 percent, the unemployment rate for women who maintain families is at 12.3 percent.

In Ohio, on average, a woman working full-time is paid $33,616 annually, while a man working full time is paid $44,563 annually; this works out to a wage gap of $10,947. If the wage gap were eliminated, Ohio’s working women as a group would have enough money for nearly two years’ worth of food, nine more months of mortgage and utilities payments, 16 more months of rent and more than 3,000 additional gallons of gas.

Nearly 34 percent of women-headed households in Ohio live below the poverty level. Eliminating the wage gap would provide critical income to 198,640 families living in poverty. (Learn about the wage gap in your state here.)

For women of color, the wage gap is even broader. African-American women make about 62 percent of what the average white man makes; for Latinas, it’s about 52 percent.

In March, President Barack Obama pledged to continue fighting for reforms outlined in the Paycheck Fairness Act, closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and banning retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. The Paycheck Fairness Act was approved by the U.S. House of Represen­tatives in January 2009, but stalled in the U.S. Senate.

Reason 2: Today is also the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The war between the states redefined our nation and still has an enormous effect on our lives today. Some incredibly important legislation, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, was born out of the conflict. Many LGBT civil rights lawsuits cite the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, including Obama and the Department of Justice in their decision not to defend DOMA. Corporate personhood was also born out of the 14th Amendment, when the U.S. Supreme Court afforded corporations the same rights as natural people.

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