Whether as Governor or Senator, I have always stood up for what is fair and right for West Virginia and this country. That's why in the 113th Congress I am strongly supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act - legislation that would help close the pay gap between women and men working equivalent jobs.
Sponsors of the bill, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress last month, just days before the four-year anniversary of the passage of the landmark Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. That law made it easier for women to challenge paycheck discrimination in court, and its anniversary indicates it is past time that we correct this unfairness to make sure women are paid what they deserve.
The first vote I took in the Senate was for paycheck fairness, and I will continue to fight for paycheck fairness because people should earn the same pay for the same work. Period. It's what's fair. And it's what's right.
The fact that working women in West Virginia are earning 70 cents to every dollar a man makes just defies common sense. Too many families are working too hard to make ends meet, especially in families where women are the breadwinners. It shouldn't matter whether you're a woman or a man -- you should be treated fairly in any job no matter what.
And that goes for women in the military too. That's why I supported Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's recent decision to end the ban on women serving in combat. The decision means the mission of defending America will be carried out by the best and most capable members of our armed forces, regardless of gender.
Despite the ban, some women in our armed forces have been serving in combat for more than a decade. According to the Department of Defense, some 280,000 women have served in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars or both, many in positions that exposed them to danger. I have a combat veteran on my senior staff, and her contributions and perspective are invaluable to my work on the Armed Services Committee.
When I first heard about Secretary Panetta's decision, I remarked that I am proud of all of our service members -- both men and women -- and I personally know plenty of ladies in West Virginia who shoot straight.
Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by strong and talented women -- my grandmother, Mama Kay, who inspired my belief in public service with her compassion and desire to help those less fortunate; my mother, Mary, who taught me the importance of family and helped instill in me the values of West Virginia; my incredible wife, Gayle, the love of my life and my partner in everything; and our two beautiful daughters, Heather and Brooke, who fill me with pride and joy every day of my life.
So I feel right at home in a Senate that has a record breaking 20 members who are women -- four Republicans and 16 Democrats, each one gifted, talented and a political force to be reckoned with. In spite of this tremendous progress, our work isn't done; and it is my honor as your Senator to continue the fight for a fair workplace and opportunities for everyone.