In Concord, Gillibrand speaks up for equal pay, equal protection

  • —Jake SheridanKirsten Gillibrand takes a picture with Planned Parenthood volunteers after a round table at UNH law on Monday, June 8, 2019. —Jake Sheridan

  • Kirsten Gillibrand listens during a round table at UNH law on Monday, June 8, 2019. —Jake Sheridan

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks during a round table at UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law in Concord on Monday. Jake Sheridan / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/8/2019 5:38:09 PM

The United States battled hard to win its fourth World Cup on Sunday, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand doesn’t think the women’s team, who say they are paid less money than their counterparts on the less successful men’s team, should have to keep fighting for better pay.

“The current disparity is an outrage,” Gillibrand said at Concord’s UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law on Monday. “This women’s team is on fire. They win more than the men’s team. They’re the champions! They should be paid at least equal pay for equal work and based on performance, I’d actually consider paying them more.”

The U.S. women’s soccer team sued U.S. soccer, claiming gender discrimination for receiving unequal pay and less support compared to the men’s team. The suit has caught the attention of presidential candidates like Gillibrand, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris.

Gillibrand, a New York senator known for ardent women’s rights advocacy long before #MeToo, stayed on the topic during a round table with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence that focused on campus safety and equality.

“How a society handles sexual violence reflects fundamentally whether they value women,” said Gillibrand, who was the first senator to call for the resignation of Sen. Al Franken after his sexual misconduct came to light.

Gillibrand, who championed reforms to make it easier for military service members to come forward with assault allegations in her first Senate term, criticized colleges for being slow to recognize the epidemic of sexual assault that exists on campuses across America, arguing that they fail to address the issue because they don’t want to bring attention to it.

“They listen to their lawyers and their insurance companies and not their consciences,” Gillibrand said.

The senator touted legislation she’s crafting to address campus sexual assault, which she said currently has the bipartisan support of 30 senators and would require colleges to survey students on sexual assault, train administrators to better deal with the epidemic, form agreements with local law enforcement to increase victims’ access to the justice system and penalize schools that fail to adequately address sexual violence.

In between careful note taking and listening, the senator probed local experts on the state of sexual violence in New Hampshire. When Strafford County Attorney Tom Velardi said he’d noticed that college-aged women are surprisingly tough on assault victims when they are jurors, Gillibrand offered a potential reason.

“If you’re a young woman, you want to believe your campus is safe. You want to believe that if you do everything right – leave the party on time, don’t drink too much, don’t wear that short skirt or whatever the tropes are – you want to believe that if you do everything right, you can’t possibly be assaulted. And I think that’s why it’s so hard for them, because they don’t want to admit that someone could do that to them,” Gillibrand said.

The senator, who argued that consent must be taught at an early age and is an advocate of equal pay, affordable daycare and universal preschool, put down her pen as Harmony Reid, a campus assault survivor and advocate, noted that victims are often blamed for their assaults.

“It’s so important to remember that a survivor is a survivor because they went through something horrific and not because they did anything wrong,” Reid said.

Gillibrand turned her focus from victims to alleged assaulters and their enablers. She criticized the judge who said a New Jersey teen accused of rape deserved leniency because he came from “a good family.” She also called President Donald Trump’s labor secretary Alexander Acosta unqualified. Acosta prosecuted and reached a generous plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 when Epstein faced charges similar to those he was indicted for Monday, including sex trafficking crimes with victims as young as 14 years old. She didn’t ease up on the president.

“I know President Trump does not value women. It’s how he talks about them. It’s the words he uses, the way he dismisses them, demeans them, disregards them. It’s the fact that he has more than a dozen sexual assault allegations against him,” Gillibrand said. “I think it’d be amazing to have a working mom in the White House instead of a misogynist.”

Sofia Ford, a UNH student who wore a pink Planned Parenthood volunteer shirt, agreed as she waited for a picture with Gillibrand.

“It would be nice to have someone lead by example, because whether we like it or not, people look to the leader of the country to see what behavior is condoned,” said Ford, adding that she believes the current administration has endorsed misogyny. “It seems more emboldened now. Things that shouldn’t be said behind closed doors are now said in open settings.”

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