“This one shouldn’t be about politics. Protecting women against violence shouldn’t be a partisan issue.” – Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
But of course, in this twilight of reason, even the issue of violence against women is charged with partisan politics. Originally passed in 1994, and up for renewal this year, the Violence Against Women Act, passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago, on a party-line vote. Republicans opposed the new elements of the legislation that protect immigrants and same-sex couples. And in this era of government-the-size-of-an-Asprin-between-your-knees, they also raised concerns about the federal grants the bill authorizes.
Democrats are framing this as another element of what many are calling the “Republican war on women['s rights].” And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has used VAWA reauthorization as a fundraising platform — as have the 11 Democratic women running in Senate races this year.
Here are some of the things included in the VAWA:
- Community violence prevention programs
- Legal aid for survivors of violence
- Protections for people who are evicted from their homes due to domestic violence
- Support programs specifically for immigrant communities
- Funding for rape crisis centers and hotlines
- Programs and services for survivors with disabilities
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) directly addressed Republican concerns regarding immigrants and same-sex couples:
“If the victim is in a same-sex relationship, is the violence any less real? Is the danger any less real because you happen to be gay or lesbian? I don’t think so. If a family comes to the country and the husband beats his wife to a bloody pulp, do we say, sorry, you’re illegal you don’t deserve any protection? When you call the police in America, they come, regardless of who you are.”
Notably, there are REAL debates to be had about the VAWA – about it’s emphasis on criminalization and what that means for communites of color and immigrant communities, as well as suspicions about provisions that require DNA samples. But those are not the debates that are going on in the Senate, of course. We’re talking about whether the bill is even necessary, not about the nuances of how we deal with violence in our communities.
Amazingly, conservatives are framing this as a culture war issue raised by Democrats. Last month, on Townhall.com, Phyllis Schlafly called the Violence Against Women Act a slush fund “used to fill feminist coffers” and challenged Republicans to oppose this legislation that promotes “divorce, breakup of marriage and hatred of men.” The gendered framing of sexual violence is certainly an issue, but that’s not really Schlafly’s problem with the bill. She doesn’t want protections from sexual violence at all.
Seemingly undaunted, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that he plans to put the bill to a vote in the coming weeks.
Some Republicans (including one Sen. Roy Blunt of MO), are noting that opposition to VAWA might be a losing stance, are even considering coming up with an alternative bill. I CAN’T even imagine what that will look like. No wait, I absolutely can – perhaps, it will find a away to argue that making contraception illegal will solve the problem of violence against women. Stay tuned.