Friday is typically the day when politicians like to unveil anything that they don’t want people to quite know about because of the assumption that people stop actually paying attention to the news going into the weekend. Thus, House Republicans have unveiled their version of the Violence Against Women Act so that people hopefully do not notice that there is an omission of LGBT protections and that they have changed the language regarding Native American victims of domestic abuse.
The proposed legislation will begin moving through the House beginning on Tuesday and is sponsored by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. She is one of the few Republican women serving in Congress.
The GOP bill, of course, removes sexual orientation and gender identity from the lists of underserved populations who have barriers to accessing victim services. This has been done so as to exclude LGBT victims of violence from getting access to these programs and further punish them for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The bill also removes provisions that would have removed funding from those who provide victim services if they exclude LGBT victims.
Of course, the House GOP leadership went straight into spin mode claiming that their version does protect LGBT victims saying “The House bill protects all people from discrimination. The Senate bill continues to add people to an enumerated list, therefore excluding those categories not on the list and requiring constant updating. The House bill also allows states, through which VAWA grants flow, to determine the best recipients of those funds, based on the victim populations in their areas.”
Of course, this sort of double-speak is usually used by the Republicans to show that they are not anti-gay even when they actually are because not enumerating these groups means that they will be excluded from protections no matter what the GOP might say.
Regarding Native American victims of domestic violence, the Senate bill gives tribal courts authority to prosecute non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations. The House would keep that, but allow the caveat that the case could be moved to federal court if, somehow, there was a feeling that those invovled were not having their constitutional rights upheld.
Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Native American, stated “The House VAWA bill introduced today represents considerable progress in the right direction for protecting Native women. However, the legislation still falls short in providing tribes the authority they need to secure their territory and protect their citizens. I intend to offer an amendment to address these shortcomings and I’m hopeful that the final bill will include stronger tribal protections.”
Cantor spokeswoman Megan Whittemore continued the spin that the House Leadership began claiming that Representative Eric Cantor is somehow committed to ending violence against all women, and that their bill would help law enforcement prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. She went on to say “He has worked hard to build consensus with members on both sides of the aisle and worked alongside advocate groups to put together the strongest possible bill.”
However, the Republicans’ bill is not meeting with much enthusiasm or support from within the community fighting to protect women from domestic violence. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women stated “Unfortunately, the National Task Force must oppose the House proposed VAWA legislation filed today. This legislation lacks necessary protections for victims of violence and rolls back current law. NTF supports efforts to move the House legislation closer to the inclusive, bipartisan Senate-passed bill.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi certainly was not happy with the proposal stating “House Republicans just can’t help themselves. Even with a strong, bipartisan bill passed by the Senate for the second Congress in a row, even with countless women in need of support and protection, Republicans are still turning the Violence Against Women Act into a partisan political football.”