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Updated Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 2:08 p.m.
Equal pay is just one reason Julia, a character created by the Obama campaign, would be better off under the president than under Mitt Romney, a Web graphic claims.
The cartoon "The Life of Julia," compares the candidates' impact on Julia at a dozen points in her life. At age 23, she’s shown reading a newspaper with the headline, "Equal pay 4 equal work." She’s starting her career as a Web designer.
"Because of steps like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Julia is one of millions of women across the country who knows she’ll always be able to stand up for her right to equal pay," the graphic says.
Romney, on the other hand, "has refused to say whether he would have vetoed or signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act," the graphic says.
We wondered: Did Romney refuse to say whether he would have vetoed or signed the act? And what would that mean for Julia?
Obama’s first law
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed by President Barack Obama on Jan. 29, 2009, made it easier for workers to pursue wage discrimination claims. Just seven Republicans voted for the bill.
It updated 1960s civil rights and age discrimination laws to reset the statute of limitations on such claims with each new paycheck. In 2007, the Supreme Court had ruled in Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. that the 180-day statute of limitations started from the day an employer made the decision to discriminate — making it harder for employees who claimed such discrimination later to get relief, such as back pay.
Just what did Romney have to say about the law? We asked the Romney and Obama campaigns and conducted our own search.
Romney’s campaign didn’t respond, but the Obama campaign pointed us to a Washington Post blog post and an ABC News interview.
The Washington Post report by Greg Sargent, the week before the ABC News interview, was based on an April 11, 2012, conference call between Romney advisers and reporters.
In a clip, Sam Stein, a political reporter at the Huffington Post, asks, "Does Gov. Romney support the Lilly Ledbetter Act?"
A Romney adviser answers, "Sam, we’ll get back to you on that."
Sargent, in his blog post, cites a TPM report that Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul later clarified in an email: "He supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law."
So, Romney’s advisers didn’t say "whether he would have vetoed or signed" the act. But it’s a stretch to say he "refused" to say — the question wasn’t about whether he would have vetoed or signed the law, but whether he supported it.
What about the ABC News interview?
On April 16, 2012, reporter Diane Sawyer asked Romney, " If you were president — you had been president — would you have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Law?"
Here’s how Romney responded:
ROMNEY: "It's certainly a piece of legislation I have no intention of changing. I wasn't there three years ago —"
SAWYER: "But would you have signed it?"
ROMNEY: "... I'm not going to go back and look at all the prior laws and say had I been there which ones would I have supported and signed, but I certainly support equal pay for women and — and have no intention of changing that law, don't think there's a reason to."
In this case, Romney did refuse to say whether he would have signed the bill. But he also said he supported "equal pay for women" and had "no intention of changing that law."
Those news reports were consistent with others we found.
The Obama campaign said Romney "has refused to say whether he would have vetoed or signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act." That’s essentially what happened in Romney’s ABC News interview in April, but the claim leaves out some details that matter to Julia.
The relevant point for Julia isn't whether Romney would sign the bill — it's already the law — but his decision not to change it. Romney also said he "certainly support(s) equal pay for women," and has "no intention of changing that law."
Still, the Obama campaign is correct that he dodged the question, so we rate the claim Mostly True.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this item said the Supreme Court's Ledbetter decision made it "impossible for employees who learned of such discrimination later to get relief, such as back pay." In fact, the court declined to address the question of whether employees who learned of discrimination after the statute of limitations expired would be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Barack Obama for President, "The Life of Julia," accessed May 8, 2012
Government Printing Office, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, accessed May 8, 2012
Library of Congress’ Thomas, CRS Summary of Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, accessed May 8, 2012
U.S. Senate, Vote on Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Jan. 22, 2009
U.S. House, Vote on Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Jan. 27, 2009
Cornell University Law School, "Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.," accessed May 8, 2012
White House, "Remarks of President Barack Obama on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act bill signing," Jan. 29, 2009
White House, "President Obama Signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act," Jan. 29, 2009, via YouTube
Washington Post's The Plum Line blog, "The war over the `war on women,’" April 11, 2012
Jon Smith, "Romney Campaign Silence of Lilly Ledbetter Act," April 11, 2012, via YouTube
TPM, "Romney Spokeswoman: We Won’t Get Rid Of Lilly Ledbetter Act," April 11, 2012
ABC News, "Transcript: Mitt and Ann Romney's Interview With Diane Sawyer," April 16, 2012
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