Feminist Majority

  • May 8, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    His colleagues did not want to hear it, but the House Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) blasted the Republican’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act as wholly inadequate and a “flat-out attack on women,” as The Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett reports.

    Bassett writes that Conyers’ comment sparked “audible sighs and one ‘Come on!’" from Republicans on the panel. Conyers, however, was reacting to the House version, which strays remarkably from the one the Senate passed in late April. The Senate’s reauthorization bill approved despite Republican opposition includes extensions of services to low-income victims of domestic violence, to undocumented immigrants, as well as more help for Native American women and lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender victims of domestic abuse. The House version, H.R. 4970, does not include those extensions of services.

    In statement from House Judiciary Committee Democrats, the measure is described as rolling back “important protections for immigrant victims – putting them in a worse position than under the current law, and excludes other vulnerable populations such as tribal women, college students experiencing abuse …. In short, this legislation seeks to fight domestic violence, but only if the sponsors agree with the race, immigration status, sexual orientation, or gender identity of the victims.”

    Those extensions spurred Republican opposition in the Senate, causing the reauthorization to languish for months. VAWA was passed in 1994 with strong bipartisan support and reauthorized twice since then. But this time around, conservative lawmakers have chaffed at extending services to more people. The obstructionism caught the attention of The New York Times, which said in a February editorial that the opposition was “drive largely by an antigay, anti-immigrant agenda.”

    During the Senate’s struggle to pass VAWA, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told The Times that the opposition was part of an overarching effort “to cut back on the rights and services to women.”

  • March 2, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Does one really need another example of Washington gridlock? Likely not, especially if you read this blog from time to time, where obstruction of judicial nominations is noted often. But we’ll note one anyway, not for the process, but more as an example of just how ridiculous it’s all becoming.

    As noted, possibly wryly by an editorial from The New York Times even in the “ultrapolarized atmosphere of Capitol Hill,” one would think that reauthorization of a once wildly bipartisan effort to combat violence against women could remain an exception to the out-of-control congressional obstructionism.

    Last month, however, the Senate Judiciary Committee could not muster one Republican vote in favor of “a well-crafted reauthorization,” of the Violence Against Women Act, which has been reauthorized twice with bipartisan support since its inception in 1994. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), not a member of the Judiciary Committee, are sponsoring the reauthorization measure.

    Reporting for The Huffington Post, Amanda Terkel, notes that several of the measure’s enhanced features have irked conservatives. Not surprisingly increased protections for minorities, specifically for the LGBT community, Native American women and immigrants, have spurred conservative lawmakers’ opposition.

    The reauthorization measure for instance includes more funding for tribal groups to prosecute domestic violence, and provides some limited jurisdiction to tribal courts to prosecute violence committed on tribal lands by those who are not living on the land or not members of the community.

    As Terkel notes, Sen. Charles Grassley the Judiciary Committee Ranking Member has also complained about the reauthorization bill’s enhanced support of services for undocumented women.

    Committee Chairman Leahy (pictured) blasted the opposition for thwarting a noble proposition to provide protections to a larger number of women who are daily victims of domestic violence.

    Norma Gattsek, director of government relations for the Feminist Majority, also knocked Republican opposition of the reauthorization. She called it an “outrage” that Republican’s on the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to support it.

    The Times’ Feb. 9 editorial said the Republican opposition appeared “driven largely by an antigay, anti-immigrant agenda.”

    A group of academics, as noted by the Gender & Sexuality Law Blog, is urging reauthorization of the VAWA, albeit with a call that more actually needs to be done to confront ongoing and pervasive violence against a wide array of women.

    Violence against varying groups of women, the professors explain, is having profound effects on the ability of those women to succeed in this country, and is adding to the nation’s festering economic inequality, the professors write.