By Mary deWolf
Apparently the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution is just a suggestion, judging by some of the most Constitution-quoting members of our governing bodies. Case in point, consider the recently renewed Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
This act, first passed in 1994, funds programs and research to help prevent and prosecute domestic and sexual violence. The act has had a significant impact. All states have passed legislation — over 660 laws — to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The incidence of domestic violence has decreased by 58%. Maryland’s intimate partner homicides have been reduced by a remarkable 41% over four years (July 2007-July 2010).
The act has had a positive economic impact also, saving $12.6 billion in the first six years. Our neighbors in Kentucky saved $85 million in one year alone reducing violence through the issuance of protection orders.
VAWA was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with nearly unanimous consent. It was due for renewal in 2012. The Senate, after consulting with experts, agreed to offer (for the first time!) protection to people who were Native American, of a sexual persuasion other than heterosexual, and undocumented immigrants. The Republicans in the House apparently couldn’t stomach the idea of helping women in these categories. The divided, gutless 2012 Congress could not come to agreement (surprise!) and the bill languished.
Last month, after being dormant for nearly two years, the act was passed by Congress and signed by the President with the new groups protected. This was despite a “fake” VAWA proposed by conservatives in the House that would have gutted important features of the existing, very popular law.
Thank you Senators Corker and Alexander for voting “yes.” Nevertheless, 22 Senators and 138 Representatives voted AGAINST protecting women.
You might assume that all “no” votes came from men who never had a mother, sister or wife. But, it’s likely that the men who voted against VAWA have women somewhere in their life. Even more amazing, though, is that there were ten lady Representatives (all Republican) who voted against the bill. So what separates the no voters from the other conservatives in their chamber? It won’t surprise most of us to learn that the phony House version and the final no votes were sponsored by the Tea Party wing.
Morally heinous as voting against reauthorizing VAWA is, it is also just plain stupid. One reason the GOP lost big in November was its failure to honor women and their needs. To add insult to injury, many right-wing opponents of VAWA are now claiming to have voted FOR the act, when, in fact, they only voted for the bogus House proposal to give them cover before they voted against reauthorization. Not only are they mean and not particularly smart, they are dishonest. Some of these folks claim to honor “family values.” They must think violence against women is a just fine for the “family.”
If you are a woman, or value the women in your family, you might be interested in how Cumberland County’s Representative voted on H Amdt 23 (the bogus cover) and S47 (the real VAWA reauthorization). Go to “votesmart.org,” type in Diane Black and search her voting record. You’ll be amazed.