Sunday, February 10, 2013

Renewing VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been up for renewal for a while now but, like so much else, has been waylaid by partisanship in Congress. The issue at the moment is a move by Senate Democrats to expand the protections for victims of abuse in LGBT relationships, as well as giving women who are abused by members of Native American tribes more legal clout.  Republicans tried to make their own changes in the House, but Senate Democrats have rejected their proposals, as it would actually limit the bill's effectiveness.

What's so frustrating about this is that is should not be an issue in the first place. The VAWA is a landmark piece of legislation. It has become a cornerstone for many women's health and safety initiatives in the United States over the last 17 or so years. And for what? For one line in a proposal that Democrats want to use to expand the coverage the VAWA has for women in LGBT relationships and for women who are abused by members of Native American Tribes. Sure, there are some legal issues to deal with when it comes to tribal affairs, but that's not reason enough, at least in my opinion, to stop the whole thing.

This speaks to the larger issues that have plagued our legislature for several years now. It's not enough to do what should be done anymore, it's all about making a political statement. I understand that Republicans fundamentally disagree with legitimizing those in the LGBT community. What I don't understand is how that translates into an unwillingness to treat every single woman in America as a human being worthy of protection and representation under the law. A person's sexual orientation cannot be taken into account when they are considered for employment; why is it taken into account when the law is deciding whether their an abuse victim?

I work in a pretty tough community. I see and hear a lot of violence and difficult situations. Not once, in the time I've worked where I do, have I ever considered a person's sexual orientation or who their partner is when I'm working with them. Not once have I ever taken that information into account of how I perceive or respond to that individual. And yet, Republicans are trying to say that giving them similar protections under VAWA to heterosexual individuals is morally reprehensible. You want to know what I think is morally reprehensible? Proclaiming, by word or deed, that a person is less deserving of safety, security, health, and well-being because of who they choose to love.

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