If you haven’t heard, the Senate voted last Thursday to renew the Violence Against Women Act.
Originally approved in 1994, the act brought about the expansion of community prevention programs, support for shelters and rape crisis centers, support for domestic violence victims in minority populations, and much more. The act was renewed and expanded in 2000 (notably it proffered assistance to victims of stalking and dating violence) and then again in 2005. The latest version of this bill extends protection to same-sex couples, Native American women, and undocumented immigrants.
So, this necessary and wonderful bill was renewed unanimously, right?!
Well, no. To be fair, the bill did pass by a large margin – 68-31 – but the fact that 31 individuals actually voted against it (citing reasons mostly pertaining to states’ rights issues and technicalities with the addition of protections afforded to LGBTQ couples, undocumented immigrants, and Native American women) is distressing. First and foremost, a bill like this is about violence prevention. Who the hell votes against violence prevention?! Oh, that’s right: Thirty-one male Republicans.
VAWA now moves to the House of Representatives, where Republicans have already hatched a stripped-down version of the bill. The Senate’s attempt at a revised bill, the Grassley-Hutchison amendment, was roundly criticized. (Worth noting: Despite the fact that her substitute was defeated, Kay Bailey Hutchison should be applauded for voting to renew VAWA anyway.)
Hopefully, the VAWA struggle will only be the tip of the iceberg in forthcoming pro-woman legislation. Democrats plan to take full advantage of the precarious situation that Republicans find themselves in with women voters. That is, it’s going to be tricky for the GOP to incessantly deny the “war on women” while proceeding to shoot down bills that specifically – and justly – aid women. In the coming weeks, Democrats will revisit the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would, among other things, expand the definition of wage discrimination. Republicans blocked this bill in November 2010, but they best not do that again if Romney wants any hope of winning votes from working women (with whom he’s already had a rocky relationship).
Bottom line is this: Women have a big role to play in this upcoming election and both sides know it. The bringing of attention to, proposing of, and passing of legislation that addresses women’s interests and results in further equality of the sexes is important and awesome. And that makes it slightly easier to ignore the blatant political games.