Nel's New Day

April 24, 2012

GOP Opposes VAWA, Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 1:19 PM
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Politics takes front and center this week with five primaries across the nation today. Voters in one state, North Carolina, will determine the fate of an anti-marriage equality amendment to the constitution which will disenfranchise domestic partnerships for not only LGBT couples but also for 233,000 heterosexual couples. Friday may bring a vote in the House on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) that greatly expands the government’s ability examine online activities in this country.

Tomorrow the Supreme Court discusses the Arizona anti-immigrant law SB1070. Let’s hope that none of them addresses the “fairness” of the law the way that one of them did while discussing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Also tomorrow the Senate debates a bill that potentially impacts over half the population of the United States—the Violence against Women Act (VAWA).

For the first time since its original passage in 1994, VAWA faces a fight for renewal. Originally written and introduced by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), the bill is an effort to prevent domestic violence and help victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Twice reauthorized–once signed by George W. Bush–VAWA has enjoyed broad bipartisan support until this year. Republicans have decided to fight VAWA because the revised act extends the classes of victims to Native Americans, the LGBT community, and undocumented immigrants. Conservatives don’t want other women to be beaten, strangled, and raped, but those other women don’t deserve government help.

Some women are even supporting the Republican opposition: Janice Crouse, a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, said that VAWA “pits husbands against wives” and that under the law “a woman can, with the barest evidence and no evidence at all, claim abuse and get (a husband or partner) out of the house.” Meanwhile after opposing VAWA in the Judiciary Committee two months ago, some Republicans say they are drafting their own, scaled-back version of the law. They have yet, however, to produce any specific proposals.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has said that the Senate GOP won’t filibuster VAWA, up for debate tomorrow. Its 61 Senate co-sponsors would already make it filibuster-proof, but Republicans plan to undermine the bill through amendments that delete the added classes of victims. Concerned that tribal officials might be able to prosecute non-Indians for abuse on reservations, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) described the added classes of victims, “matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition.” Conservatives can pass these amendments with 51 votes if all the Republicans plus a few less-than-liberal Democrats vote to delete some women from the bill. An alternative to these amendments is to add toxic amendments, forcing Democrats to oppose the bill.

Since VAWA’s first passage, domestic violence has annually decreased by 53 percent. Because victims now report incidents, abuse reports have increased 51 percent. The law has provided hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children access to legal help, health care, and police assistance. VAWA makes special provisions for the elderly, the disabled, and women in rural areas who can’t easily access help. Thus far, VAWA has not been a cure: in 45 percent of cases where a man killed a woman, it was because a woman tried to leave an abusive relationship. One in five women will be raped in her lifetime, as will one in 71 men. Between one-third and one-fourth of same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence.

One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime; they face the highest rate of domestic violence out of any group in the country, three and a half times the national average. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said that “any American” could be imprisoned by tribal courts, but the provisions allow tribal members to prosecute non-tribal people who commit domestic violence and who either live or work on a reservation or are married to a tribal member. Republicans also oppose the increased number of visas extended to abused undocumented victims. The expanded VAWA would prevent shelters from discriminating against LGBT victims.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the highest-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) held a press conference last week about VAWA. “It really is a shame, I think, that we’ve gotten to this point that we even have to stand here today to urge our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to support legislation that has consistently received broad bipartisan support,” Murray said.

One GOP Senate candidate, Sarah Steelman who is opposing Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), didn’t know about VAWA until she got a question about the bill. Later she said, “Of course I am for stopping violence against women” but accused Senate Democrats of making the bill a “political football.” [Any time someone disagrees with the GOP position (which is anything opposing the Democrats’ position), that person screams “politization,” probably the term replacing “un-American.”]

Steelman is in good company: Mitt Romney didn’t know what VAWA was when he was a presidential candidate in 2008. Thus far, Romney has not stated an opinion about VAWA’s renewal.

Since the beginning of the recession, the Northeast has seen a 72 percent increase in the incidence of domestic violence in the Northeast while domestic violence homicide rates have increased 24 percent in New York. Yet across the country, states are cutting funding to counseling programs, non-shelter services, and rental subsidies that help domestic violence victims escape into other permanent housing.

This Friday the Senate will leave for a one-week recess. Will they create separate classes of Native Americans, LGBT, and undocumented immigrant people, allowing them to suffer violence to the point of being killed?

As Meghan Rhoade wrote, “The bottom line for women is that everyone deserves protection from violence–regardless of the length of her skirt, regardless of her sexual orientation, and regardless of her immigration status.” Freedom from violence should be a human right.

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