The GOP, led by the infamously bigoted Senator Chuck Grassley, is telling LGBT victims of domestic abuse that they simply do not exist, in his new substitute version of the decades-old Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Democrats have been trying hard to add protections for LGBT people, Native Americans, and immigrants into the bill, to which Grassley and his Republican colleagues have been vociferously objecting.
Now, as Think Progress’s Annie-Rose Strasser reports today, Grassley has teamed up with Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to “water down” the Violence Against Women Act — an effort the White House publicly opposes. In “GOP Tries To Water Down Violence Against Women Act, Expresses Willingness To Tolerate Some Domestic Abuse,” Strasser writes:
Although the full details of Grassley and Hutchinson’s watered down protections for domestic violence victims have yet to be released, it is likely that they will map Grassley’s previously stated opposition to providing greater support for LGBT, undocumented, and tribal victims of domestic violence. The Hutchison/Grassley amendment will likely leave out some victims who face particularly harsh discrimination. If Senate Republicans embrace Grassley’s earlier objections to reauthorizing VAWA, they will show that they are willing to tolerate a certain amount of domestic violence by ignoring certain victims:
For Native victims: In 86 percent of reported rapes or sexual assaults on Native women, the perpetrators are non-Native. While Hutchison has criticized the tribal provisions, saying that ‘any American’ could be imprisoned by tribal courts, in actuality, the provisions allow tribal members to prosecute a non-tribal people who commit domestic violence and who either live or work on a reservation, or are married to a tribal member. The Grassley / Hutchison amendment requires any domestic violence to be prosecuted in federal courts, meaning that rural tribal victims won’t seek help. Additionally, federal prosecutors “already decline to prosecute half of Indian Country crimes that are referred to them,” and with the added number of domestic violence crimes, victims are likely to never see justice.
For LGBT victims: The new version of the bill also lacks any additional provisions for the LGBT community, blanketing over LGBT-specific issues with gender neutral language that lumps the needs of gay and lesbian protections in with the needs of straight couples. The original version of VAWA says that domestic violence shelters cannot discriminate against gay, lesbian, or trans people, but the new version says nothing about this issue. Grassley has said that he does not believe discrimination in shelters is an issue — despite the fact that “44.6 percent of LGBT/HIV-positive survivors of intimate partner violence were turned away from shelters.”
For undocumented victims: The Grassley/Hutchison version of the bill takes out the added visas for undocumented people who are beaten and seek assistance from the state. The visas are put in place so that victims aren’t too scared to contact the authorities when they find themselves physically harmed or in danger. When such protections don’t exist, people are forced to work outside of the law to protect themselves.
There are, however, a few GOP outliers, like Senator John McCain, who blasted Democrats this morning on the Senate floor for what he called an “imaginary war” on women, but who does support the reauthorization of the VAWA.
“My friends, this supposed ‘War on Women’ or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television. Neither purpose does anything to advance the well-being of any American,” Senator McCain said, adding, ”To suggest that one group of us or one party speaks for all women or that one group has an agenda to harm women and another to help them is ridiculous.”
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