The Equal Pay Act and the Women’s Soccer Movement

Andy Scholes walks through US Soccer’s landmark equal pay deal with the Women of the World, a program that gives women a voice in US Soccer The Equal Pay Act, enacted in 1963, established…

The Equal Pay Act and the Women's Soccer Movement

Andy Scholes walks through US Soccer’s landmark equal pay deal with the Women of the World, a program that gives women a voice in US Soccer

The Equal Pay Act, enacted in 1963, established the legal framework for gender discrimination in the workplace. It was a watershed decision, because it set the stage for women’s equal pay cases, which are still in litigation and which have resulted in mixed results. While women made significant strides in earning equal pay in the early 1990s, the issue of whether to repeal the Equal Pay Act began to take on new significance in 2013. In recent years, women’s soccer has taken a leading role in this debate.

The Equal Pay Act passed on January 30, 1963 in the House of Representatives by a vote of 365 to 54. It was sponsored by Congressman William P. Connery of New Hampshire and supported by a broad range of powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill. There were 20 Democrats and 12 Republicans who voted to pass the amendment. The amendment required that any wage discrimination on the basis of gender must be “motivated by an intent to do harm or an intent to discriminate against women.”

On January 30, 1965 the act was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. It took effect immediately. In a statement, the President said that his administration would enforce the Equal Pay Act, and that in his judgment it would “result in an increase in wages for both men and women, and help to eliminate existing and potential prejudice against women and girls.”

The law was not always perceived to be so beneficial to women. Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, who sponsored the Equal Pay Act, had said in 1959 that: “The first of all laws that ever created a female problem will be the Equal Pay Act.”

The Senate version of the Equal Pay Act was identical to the House version, but Congress passed a conference report that included language, which would have eliminated the intent requirement. While some feminist leaders welcomed the inclusion of this language, others objected and insisted that the Senate version contain the intent requirement. The final version of the Equal Pay Act included the “intent to harm” language.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EE

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