The last thing this country need is to politicize violence against women.
The Violence Against Women Act was introduced by then-United States Senator and current President Joe Biden in 1994 as a means to protect women from domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It got bipartisan support and passed overwhelmingly.
The original act set aside $1.6 billion to help women and also established an office in the Department of Justice. The legislation has been reauthorized several times in the intervening years with support from both parties.
But everything in our nation’s capital has become more divided, and compromise has become an endangered concept. The legislation lapsed in 2019. Recently, in honor of National Women’s Month, and to sadly acknowledge that six of the eight people murdered in Atlanta recently were women, the Democratic-controlled House passed the reauthorization 244-to-172 with 29 Republicans voting with Democrats.
Republican opposition is apparently tied to adding a “boyfriend” category, which includes dating partners and stalkers, to the provision banning spouses convicted of domestic violence or abuse from owning firearms. It appears that the National Rifle Association is opposed to extending the ban and argues that the Democrats are trying to erode Second Amendment rights. The bill also expands protections for Native American, transgender and immigrant women.
With 51.1 % of all women having been raped by an intimate partner and 41% by an acquaintance, it would seem that adding the wording may make women safer. As recently as 2005, it was reported 1,181 women had been murdered by an intimate partner.
As with many policies, reauthorization may run into challenges based on political needs in the split Senate. But pitting women’s safety against guns to hold up the legislation is an overreaction to what should be a unanimous vote in both Houses. The last time the bill was reauthorized in 2013, there were 23 Republicans in the Senate, and 87 Republicans in the Republican-controlled House voted for it.
Last year, rather than try and include issues in their platform that Black voters care about, Republicans alienated many Black voters, paricularly Black women, by behaving as if they didn’t care about the votes of people of color. It cost them Georgia. This year, Republicans seem intent upon alienating the rest of women voters who make up half the voting population.
Republicans have said they will craft their own bill to show what they will support. They should remember that all police hate domestic violence calls more than any other calls as they frequently end up with a police officer getting hurt. The Republican bill will likely show deletion of dating partners, stalkers and guns.
I would like to believe that both parties care enough about women and fully share Atlanta’s grief, that they want to demonstrate they can agree on something and vote for the Democratic bill. And that should be the first step in political messaging for 2022. Make everyone vote on the bill as is.
However, for compromise, leave guns and dating partners in the bill, but delete stalkers. If that doesn’t pass, then at least the public will know each party’s priorities and values. What should be most important — our mothers, daughters, sisters, spouses and girlfriends? Or guns? That should be an easy question to answer, but apparently it isn’t.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.