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Violence Against Women Act Stalls – Mich. NOW "Condemns" House version

May 21, 2012

LANSING, Mich. - The Violence Against Women Act has been renewed twice with bipartisan support since originally passed in 1994, but this year's reauthorization has become the object of an election year political battle. The Senate has approved a version of the bill that includes immigrants, Native Americans, and LBGT victims of domestic abuse, but the House passed a version that excluded those protections. The National Organization for Women is opposed to the House version, which it calls an "atrocious bill".

Mary Pollack, legislative vice president for Michigan NOW, says that's because the House bill excludes many domestic abuse victims who historically have fallen through the cracks.

"Especially immigrant women are especially vulnerable, because some of them are victims of domestic violence and are very afraid of calling the police or calling for help."

Leaders of more than 30 religious groups are also opposed to the House bill, because they say it rolls back current protections for "battered non-citizens." House Republican leaders say their bill protects all victims and that there is no reason for the bill to single out certain groups.

Pollock says the two Senators from Michigan, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, did the right thing by voting for the Senate reauthorization bill.

"It's the bill that we want, and the Republicans seem to be dead set against anything that women's rights advocates want."

Proponents of the Senate bill cited studies that show the rate of domestic abuse among lesbian, gay, and transgender people to be about the same as among the general population, yet that abuse is reported less.

Pollock thinks House Republicans are afraid to face reality.

"They cannot vote on anything that recognizes that there may be more discrimination against that group than other groups. It is the civil rights topic of our time."

Pollock calls the House bill anti-gay, anti-woman and anti-immigrant. House Republicans accuse Senate Democrats of playing politics with the issue.

The Violence Against Women Act expires in September. Both sides say they support reauthorization. No official negotiations have been scheduled to work out a compromise. President Obama has threatened to veto the House version.

The Senate bill is S.1925; the House bill is H.R.4970.

A NOW statement is at tinyurl.com/7kd2qjv.


Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI