By Ian Millhiser on Feb 15, 2012 at 10:30 am
Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, and it’s been reauthorized without a hitch twice since then. Now that it’s up for reauthorization again, however, Senate Republicans have suddenly decided to use it as part of an anti-gay and anti-immigrant crusade. Every single Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against reauthorization, with Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) taking the lead against the bill:
The objections, led by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and a few conservative organizations, are not over the VAWA as a whole, but over a few new provisions in the reauthorization —specifically, protections for LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse and the authority of Native American tribes to prosecute crimes.
The Leahy bill enumerates protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence, forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by VAWA grantees.
The VAWA reauthorization also expands the availability of visas for undocumented immigrants who have been victims of domestic violence and may be reluctant to come forward because of the risk of deportation. VAWA has always protected this group of individuals, but the reauthorization would raise the cap on visas for battered women and sexual assault victims from 10,000 to 15,000. The additional visas would come from recaptured visas in previous years that haven’t been utilized.
It is a mystery why Grassley or anyone else could think that battered gay men, lesbians or immigrants (or, for that matter, Native Americans) do not need the full protection of the law. Worse, Grassley’s tactic here does not simply deny protections to these individuals, he is literally holding a bill that protects all battered women hostage in order to score a few anti-gay and anti-immigrant points.