Speaker of the House John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and their Republican colleagues have decided to ring in the New Year with a new round of virtual assaults on women, minorities and immigrants.
After subjecting the nation to its latest obstructionism masked as political theater in the waning days of 2012 and the early hours of 2013—otherwise known as the short-term solutions to scale the "fiscal cliff”—the House Republican leadership quickly adjourned without reauthorizing the Violence against Women Act.
VAWA has been “reauthorized without fanfare since then-Senator Joe Biden spearheaded its passage in 1994,” notes The Atlantic.
“The fact that the 112th Congress let VAWA expire doesn’t just mean that they’re politically opposed to some of the [proposed] expansions,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) on Saturday’s edition of MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry. “It means women all across this country—right now, today — are living without these legal protections.”
Some background: The Violence Against Act has enjoyed strong bipartisan support and has “improved our ability to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and has helped countless victims of these crimes get access to needed services,” noted Attorney General Eric Holder in September 2012 on the legislation’s 18th anniversary.
The bill expired in October 2011 but was eventually reauthorized by the Senate in April 2012 with a broader mandate. The Senate version would “have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women,” adds the Huffington Post. “But House Republicans refused to support the legislation with those provisions.”
It should come as no surprise that the all-male and all-White House Republican leadership are opposed to expanding protections for victims of domestic violence. The Republican-led House passed their own version without the additional protections.
Rep. Gwen Moore—the fierce progressive sistah from Wisconsin—took to the House floor to recount her own sexual assault. Witnessing dozens of Republican men refusing to reauthorize the bill was almost akin to re-victimization, said Rep. Moore. “It brought up some terrible memories" of childhood sexual abuse and being raped as an adult, she said.
The expanded protections are critically important in a society where violence against women—especially Black and Latino women—has become outrageously routine. Case in point: Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher’s brutal murder of Kassandra Perkins, the mother of his 3-month-old baby.
A woman is battered every 15-18 seconds in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. African-American women aged 20 to 24 “experience significantly more domestic violence than White women,” reports the American Bar Association and the University of Minnesota. “The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.”
Domestic violence is also prevalent in the LGBT community—more or less “at the same rate as heterosexuals” but victims are less likely to report due to stigma, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. “When they do, many are denied services,” reports San Diego LGBT Weekly. “About 45% of LGBT victims were turned away when they sought help from a domestic violence shelter.”
Combating violence against women is not a priority of the House Republican leadership, yet additional funding to defend anti-gay discrimination is a priority. “The House Republican Conference “gave a green light” to additional funding for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group “to keep paying outside counsel to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court,” reports the Huffington Post.
The Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear a key challenge to DOMA, the federal statute that prohibits federal recognition of legally married same-sex couples and denies more than 1,000 benefits, such as Social Security, pension benefits and preferential tax treatment. The court will also review California's voter-approved ban on same-sex unions.
Refusing to protect battered women and spending more money to fight a losing battle to preserve a retrograde 1950s version of what marriage and relationships should look like. So much for the “family values” of the Republican Party.
Rod McCullom has written and produced for ABC News, NBC and FOX, and his writing has appeared in EBONY, The Advocate, OUT.com, The Los Angeles Times and many others. Read his award winning site Rod 2.0. Follow him on Twitter: @RodMcCullom