Over the past few months, the fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, has been caught up in the perpetually stifling congressional environment.
Passed in 1994 VAWA was intended to improve the criminal justice system by strengthening federal penalties for domestic violence offenders, training for officers and prosecutors, and services for victims. Since its passage VAWA has garnered wide bipartisan support and little opposition.
But this year senators led by Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) objected to a range of the bill’s protections, including language to prevent discrimination for gay and transgender* victims, language to allow local tribal authorities to prosecute all perpetrators of domestic violence on their reservations, and provisions that expand the U-visa for immigrant victims of crimes.
Though the bill has just passed the Senate, House Republicans drafted their own version that excludes protections for gay and transgender, immigrant, and tribal issues, ignoring groups at a high risk of becoming victims of domestic violence and crime.
Public support for VAWA has been unwavering and close to two decades after passage, its provisions have proved life-changing for many Americans. As CAP’s Norma Espinosa explains, this piece of legislation is far too important to fall prey to partisan politics.
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*"Gay" is used here as an umbrella term to describe people that identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.