Brittany Pettersen equal pay

Colorado state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, leads a lunchtime rally for the proposed Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.

On Equal Pay Day, women were told to wait at least one more day on Colorado legislation for pay parity.

Senate Bill 85, the proposed Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, was bumped off the calendar in the upper chamber Tuesday. The bill is now scheduled to be heard on Wednesday.

The legislation would give direct authority to an individual to sue an employer over discrimination complaints based on gender. Currently the state investigates complaints and enforces existing law.

The bill would require more transparency on pay and job openings, while preventing an employer from asking about a person's pay history.

Democrats have tried and failed for years to pass such a pay parity law, but Republicans then in the Senate majority bottled up the bill. Democrats won the majority in the chamber last November, however.

"Finally we are going to pass this bill," Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, said at a lunchtime rally on the Capitol steps.

She added, "Women are going to have leverage they didn't have before."

Income equality is the root of poverty for many women and families, proponents said.

"The issue continues to interfere with women and their path to economic security,"  Louise Myrland, vice president of programs for the Women's Foundation of Colorado, said at the rally.

She said the gap for women of color is especially wide.

Earlier Tuesday, the Senate passed a resolution in support of Equal Pay Day, a national observance on April 2, even though they didn't take up the Colorado parity bill.

Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, pointed to studies cited in the resolution that indicated that while white women on average earn 78 cents on the dollar to what white men earn, Hispanic women earn just 54 cents, the bottom of the scale.

She said the imbalance should be addressed on race as well as gender.

"When we all work together for systemic changes, that's how we can ensure all Coloradans can thrive," Gonzales said.

Added Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who is black: "It's not Equal Pay Day for someone who looks like me."

Black women earn 63 cents per dollar earned by white men, according to the resolution. 

Sen. Vicki Marble, a Republican from Fort Collins, said that to her, the bill reflects too much anger against white men.

"I'm not mad at anybody," Marble said. "I don't care how much you make. I don't care where you work. I'm just glad you do a damn-good job at what you're hired to do. You negotiate and do what you can to make your life the best."

She talked about getting by on hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, raising her kids as a single mother.

"I can't take part in something that's so focused against a white man, because, frankly, I feel white men have done a lot for this country ... as all men have, and I want to thank them, Marble said. 

Marble was joined in opposition to Equal Pay Day by two other Republicans, Sens. John Cooke of Greeley and Rob Woodward of Loveland.

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