The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization this year, and for the first time since its original passage, it’s facing pushback from Republicans.
Female senators are not happy about the sudden resistance to a usually uncontroversial bill. A few new provisions in VAWA add protections for undocumented people, the LGBT community, and Indian reservations, which have prompted a change of heart from anti-immigrant Republicans like Jeff Sessions, who said, “there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition.”
In a Senate floor speech today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) argued that our values should demand that everyone deserves protection from domestic abuse:
The bill includes lesbian and gay men. The bill includes undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse. The bill gives native American tribes authority to prosecute crimes. In my view, these are improvements. Domestic violence is domestic violence. I ask my friends on the other side: 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, ‘Well you’re illegal, I’m sorry, you don’t deserve any protections’? 911 operators, police officers, don’t refuse to help a victim because of their sexual orientation or the country where they were born, or their immigration status. When you call the police in America, they come regardless of who you are.
Feinstein added, “To defeat this bill is almost to say ‘we don’t need to consider violence against women — it’s not an important issue.’ It is.” Indeed, with all the recent attacks focused around women’s issues, Feinstein had a larger suspicion about blockage of the bill: “I hope that this bill is not part of a march. And that march, as I see it, over the last 20 years, is to cut back on rights and services to women.” Watch it:
In a show of general strength and support, the women of the Senate took to the floor today to fight for passage of the bill. Among the floor statements were both Democrats and Republicans, though no men spoke.