STOCKMAN: This is a truly bad bill. This is helping the liberals, this is horrible. Unbelievable. What really bothers — it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that — how is that a woman?
If Stockman is interested in learning about people whose gender was incorrectly assigned at birth, he could start by learning that the proper word for this community is “transgender,” not “change-gender.” Perhaps then he could meet some trans people, listen to their stories, and learn how transwomen experiences every moment of their lives as women — not “men dressed up as women” — regardless of what conclusions he might draw if he invaded their privacy to inspect their anatomy. Then, he could study the extreme rates of discrimination that transgender people experience, including extreme poverty and rejection from domestic violence shelters. Maybe then he would not be so bothered by the language in the bill.
All people deserve to be protected from violence, particularly the communities that are particularly vulnerable to unfair treatment. Rather than mock people whose identities he doesn’t understand, Stockman might consider actually taking the time to investigate why his fellow lawmakers thought the protections important enough to include.
Shortly after President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization into law, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) released a glowing press release claiming that a “Cornyn bill” to “eliminate nationwide rape kit backlog” was signed into law. The so-called “Cornyn bill” is the SAFER Act, which was incorporated into the VAWA renewal, and which “provide[s] funding for state and local governments to conduct audits of untested DNA evidence and create[s] a national reporting system to help track and prioritize untested rape kits,” according to Cornyn. By all appearances, it seems like a wonderful law. There’s only one problem.
With the national debate on immigration in central focus, this year’s International Women’s Day is a reminder that women are the face of immigration.
Today, women make up 51 percent of the documented and undocumented population. They are major drivers of economic growth and are more likely to own their businesses than their American-born counterparts. A majority of women who migrate to the U.S. are educated, hold advanced degrees, and have held professional jobs. Another 22 percent of the farm worker population is female.
Yet, at the same time, immigrant women face unique struggles:
Domestic Violence: The recently reauthorized Violence Against Women Act includes expanded protections for undocumented women and victims of human trafficking by providing women with legal tools to counter abuse, without fear of deportation. Still, these women are particularly vulnerable to abuse at home and work, because abusers use immigration status as a “tool of control.” In the U.S., victims of human trafficking are mostly immigrant women.
Health Care: Immigrant women are twice as likely as American-born women to lack health coverage. Immigrants pay taxes and contribute to the economy, but are still barred from Medicaid and health services like prenatal care. As a result, immigrant women are less likely to receive reproductive care, including cervical cancer, breast cancer screenings, HIV/AIDS testing, and sex education.
Discrimination: According to 2009 research by New America Media, immigrant women from around the world report facing increased discrimination since they arrived to the U.S. Latin American women report the highest increased discrimination by far.
Families Pulled Apart:In 2011, record deportation left more than 5,000 children in foster case without their parents. According to the Applied Research Center, another 15,000 will be placed in foster care over the next five years because of rising deportations. Meanwhile, families can be separated for up to 22 years because of visa backlogs, and a majority stuck in the backlogs are women. More women than men gain permanent residence in the U.S. through family-based visas.
Although their challenges are sometimes overlooked in the immigration debate, women are an important constituency in the ongoing discussion.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Monday openly admitted that she opposed the latest reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) because it included protections for LGBT, Native American, and undocumented victims of domestic violence.
In an appearance on MSNBC, Blackburn pointed out that the latest iteration of the law protects “different groups” and thus dilutes funding for straight, non-Native American women with the proper documentation:
When you start to make this about other things it becomes an “against violence act” and not a targeted focus act… I didn’t like the way it was expanded to include other different groups. What you need is something that is focused specifically to help the shelters and to help out law enforcement, who is trying to work with the crimes that have been committed against women and helping them to stand up.
Domestic violence is domestic violence, period. And there is no way to justify Blackburn’s suggestion that some victims of this violence are more deserving than others. The reauthorized VAWA allows programs targeting LGBT victims of domestic violence to compete on equal footing for grant money with other groups serving underserved populations, and it ensures that LGBT victims will not be turned away from shelters and other services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These victims of violence deserve the same protections as anyone else caught in domestic abuse.
By Katie Miller, Guest Blogger on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm
Today, Congress finally voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, a traditionally bipartisan bill which provides assistance to victims of domestic violence. For the first time since the bill was first introduced in 1994, Congress allowed the Violence Against Women Act to expire at the end of 2012 because House Republicans opposed new provisions which would improve care and access to services for LGBT people and Native American women.
Their resistance is especially ironic, given that the whole purpose of the Violence Against Women Act is to ensure that no victim of sexual assault or domestic violence be denied access to the support, assistance, and protection that they need, especially among underserved communities. It has also become increasingly clear that LGBT people fall into the category of “underserved.”
LGBT Americans face the roughly the same rate of domestic violence as their straight counterparts — one out of four to one out of three same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence compared to one in every four heterosexual woman who will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. Moreover, nearly 62 percent of LGBT and HIV-positive victims were denied access to shelters in 2011, due in part to the unwillingness to accept gay men in these facilities. Additionally, authorities often lack the knowledge of how to handle domestic violence cases involving two people of the same gender. The current system fails to adequately address domestic violence in the LGBT community.
Here is how the progressive, newly improved Violence Against Women Act better protects LGBT people:
VAWA now contains a nondiscrimination clause that prohibits LGBT victims from being turned away from services like traditional shelters on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
VAWA now explicitly names LGBT people as an underserved population, which allows organizations serving LGBT victims of domestic violence to receive funding from a grant program that focuses specifically on underserved populations.
VAWA now allows states, at their discretion, to use certain grant funds to improve responses to incidents of domestic violence among LGBT people. This bolsters law enforcement, prosecution, and victim service efforts within states.
Our guest bloggers are Christopher Frost, Intern, and Katie Miller, Special Assistant, with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.
On Thursday afternoon, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives’s vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) guaranteed much-needed protections for all women, but also demonstrated that Congress can advance popular initiatives if GOP leadership is willing to bring legislation to a vote.
Republicans sought to advance their own alternative to the Senate-backed VAWA — one which excluded protections for LGBT, Native American and undocumented victims. But the GOP amendment failed and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) allowed the chamber to vote on the Senate alternative. It passed 286 to 138, with just 87 GOP votes and marked the third time Republicans advanced and approved legislation that did not garner a majority within their party caucus. The two other instances:
– FISCAL CLIFF: After Boehner abandoned his negotiations with the White House and his Plan B failed, the House ultimately approved a fiscal cliff deal with more than $600 billion in new revenue. The final bill passed 257 to 167 with 85 Republicans and 172 Democrats voting in favor.
– HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF: Boehner’s decision to delay a vote on a relief package for the victims of Hurricane Sandy stirred outrage within his own caucus from members who represented the affected areas. When the measure finally came to a vote, it passed 241 to 180 with 49 Republicans and 192 Democrats voting in favor.
These votes show how Congress can act on critical issues so long as Republicans dispense with the so-called Hastert Rule — an informal rule perpetuated by former House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) that encourages Republicans to only vote on measures that have support from a majority within the GOP.
If the 435-member Congress does not allow the opposition of a dedicated minority of less than 200 conservatives to hold up the legislative agenda, then it can find bipartisan support for popular priorities like tax reform, gun safety and immigration reform.
After nearly a year of partisan infighting on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives and the Senate have finally agreed to send a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to President Obama’s desk.
On Thursday, by a vote of 286 to 138, the House passed the bipartisan Senate-approved version of the bill — one that includes added protections for LGBT, Native American, and undocumented victims of domestic violence. All 138 votes against the bill were Republicans.
A watered down Republican version of the bill, which was offered as a substitute amendment, failed to garner enough votes to slow the process. It was struck down by a vote of 257 to 166. Sixty Republicans voted against their own party’s replacement measure.
Twenty-seven members of Congress, all Republicans, voted against both versions:
Curiously, of the 27 who voted against both versions, 14 actually voted for the House version last time around. A spokeswoman for Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), told ThinkProgress that he objected to the Native American provisions in both versions — provisions not found in the 2012 House version. A spokesman for Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) said that while he supported the principal, he voted against it because the bill did not go through “regular order” and “a better bill could have been produced if it had gone through the committee process.” It is not yet clear what made the other 12 members change their minds: Reps. John Culberson (R-TX), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), John Duncan (R-TN), Steve Fincher (R-TN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Walter Jones (R-NC), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Kristi Noem (R-SD), Pete Olson (R-TX), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
Nine Congressmen — all male Republicans — voted Wednesday against a resolution to allow the U.S. House to consider re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The vast majority of House Republicans (214) and all 200 House Democrats voted for rule, which will allow votes Thursday on the watered-down GOP version of the bill and (assuming that fails), the bipartisan Senate plan.
The nine Republicans were Representatives Paul Broun (GA), Scott Garrett (NJ), Louie Gohmert (TX), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Walter Jones (NC), Steve King (IA), Thomas Massie (KY), Tom McClintock (CA), and Matt Salmon (AZ).
Three of the nine — Gohmert, Jones, and King — voted for the watered-down Republican version of the bill last May, making their opposition to even bringing up the bill now a surprise. King said of the 2012 bill, “I supported VAWA in 2005 and am doing so again to see to it that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have access to the resources and protection when they need it the most.”
While apparently none of the opponents has released a statement on today’s vote, some explained their opposition to last year’s bill. Huelskamp, in a letter to constituents, noted that he does not believe the federal government has a role in funding protection against domestic abuse. “This is a matter that should be left to our states,” he wrote, and Congress “should not be in the business of handing out grants conditioned on how states do or do not prosecute criminals.”
McClintock, in explaining his 2012 vote against VAWA, argued: “This is a feel-good measure that uses ‘Violence Against Women’ as an excuse to vastly expand a dizzying array of government grant programs, hamstring judges who are attempting to resolve and reconcile highly volatile relationships, add $1.8 billion to the nation’s debt and generally insinuate the federal government into matters the Constitution clearly reserves to the states. Federal grants of all kinds (essentially gifts of public money with little or no oversight) are out of control and ought to be abolished — not expanded.”
The Violence Against Women Act expired at the end of 2012 after House Republicans refused to accept the Senate bill’s protections for LGBT, Native American, and undocumented victims. Though the Senate passed another bipartisan VAWA reauthorization over a week ago, House Republicans may derail passage once again. On Friday, House GOP leaders released their own VAWA bill, stripping protections for LGBT individuals and adding a loophole for Native American victims.
Where the Senate bill granted access to federal grants for LGBT victims, the House bill is silent, removing all mention of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” As a result of this omission, LGBT-inclusive crisis centers could be shut out from essential grant programs:
The House GOP bill entirely leaves out provisions aimed at helping LGBT victims of domestic violence. Specifically, the bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program. The bill also eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The House bill also gives states some wiggle room by shifting greater authority to state government to decide which victimized groups are “underserved” and therefore deserve funding.
The Senate bill’s protections for Native American victims were also protested as “unconstitutional” and received vocal opposition from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Though the House bill does grant tribal courts the authority to prosecute non-native perpetrators of domestic abuse, these abusers can only receive a maximum sentence of 1 year. The bill states, “A participating tribe may exercise this special domestic violence jurisdiction over only domestic or dating violence offenses punishable by up to one year committed in Indian country against a tribal member or non-tribal member Indian who resides in Indian country.” The House also adds a provision allowing the accused to take their case to federal court if they feel their rights are being violated. Currently, Native American victims with non-native partners are caught in a limbo where tribal courts cannot touch perpetrators but federal law enforcement does not have jurisdiction.
Since its inception in 1994, VAWA has been instrumental in driving down the number of partner homicides and establishing community programs to help women in abusive situations.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a chief advocate for VAWA in the Senate, blasted the House bill as a “non-starter” and called for moderate Republicans to take action: “It’s not a compromise, it’s an unfortunate effort to exclude specific groups of women from receiving basic protections under the law… The protections included in the Senate for new communities of women are not bargaining chips that can be played with in order to appease the far right in their party. These are badly needed new tools to give women an escape from a life stunted by abuse…It’s time for moderate Republicans in the House to step up and finally force their leadership to stop ignoring the calls of women across the country.”
INDIANOLA, Iowa — Republicans have offered a number of reasons why they oppose the Violence Against Women Act. Some think it’s unconstitutional. Others argue that it’s just a meaningless bill with a patriotic title.
On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) added a new one: Native Americans supposedly aren’t capable of holding fair trials.
Last week, Grassley was one of just 22 senators—all Republican men—who voted against reauthorizing VAWA. During a town hall meeting in Indianola on Wednesday, a woman asked him to explain his vote. Grassley responded that the legislation is unconstitutional, a belief shared by at least five of his colleagues.
Since the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a trial among a jury of peers, Grassley reasoned that white men would be deprived of their rights if those who were accused of violence against Native American women had to appear in a tribal court. “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” Grassley said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”
GRASSLEY: One provision that non-Native Americans can be tried in tribal court. And why is that a big thing? Because of the constitutionality of it, for two reasons. One, you know how the law is, that if you have a jury, the jury is supposed to be a reflection of society. [...] So you get non-Indians, let me say to make it easy, you get non-Indians going into a reservation and violating a woman. They need to be prosecuted. They aren’t prosecuted. So the idea behind [VAWA] is we’ll try them in tribal court. But under the laws of our land, you got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole, and on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.
There is actually no requirement that juries reflect “society as a whole.” The Sixth Amendment requires juries to be drawn from the “State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” and Supreme Court decisions establish that criminal defendants also have a right to a jury which is “drawn from a fair cross section of the community,” where the trial court convenes to hear their case. But this does not entitle anyone to be tried by a jury that reflects the whole of American society.
A person who is tried in Vermont is likely to have an all-white jury because over 95 percent of Vermont is white. Similarly, a person who commits a crime in the Navajo Nation will face a jury of Native Americans because the population of the local community is made up of Navajo people. There is no reason to believe that Navajo jurors are any less impartial than white Vermonters, and Grassley is wrong to suggest otherwise.
Grassley went to great lengths to tell attendees that he had supported VAWA in the past. “I support 98 percent of what’s in the bill,” he said. If it weren’t for his belief that Native Americans’ are incapable of conducting a fair trial, perhaps he would have voted for it again.
If you want Congress to reauthorize VAWA, sign ThinkProgress’ petition here.
In an interview late last year with Huffington Post, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), one of two registered Native Americans in Congress, dismissed the notion put forth by Grassley that tribal courts are incapable of holding fair trials. “People seem to have this fantasy that Indians and courts are going to try to make up for what happened to them for hundreds of years of history,” said Cole. “That’s just not true.”
Indian Country Today points to a report suggesting that many tribal court juries would likely be more diverse than juries in much of the United States:
A recently released report by the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center titled Policy Insight Brief titled, Statistics on Violence Against Native Women that states according to the 2010 U.S. Census “46 percent of people living on reservations in 2010 were non-Native.” Almost half the reservation population would essentially lead to diversity on juries. The figure is as a whole in the United States, and there may be areas where this number is drastically lower, but that is where the Sixth Amendment comes in.