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Violence Against Women Act Stalls - NOW Condemns House Version

May 23, 2012

CHICAGO - 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 passed a version of the bill that includes immigrants, Native Americans, and GLBT victims of domestic abuse, while the House passed a version that excluded those protections.

Dawn Dalton with the Chicago Battered Women's Network says the sooner the bill is reauthorized the better.

"We are still at a stage where one in three women at some point in their lives will be a victim of domestic or sexual violence by an intimate partner. So it's not like this problem is going away."

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has issued a statement condemning the House bill because of the exclusions. Leaders of more than 30 religious groups are also opposed to the House version, because they say it rolls back current protections for immigrant victims of domestic abuse. House Republican leaders say their bill protects all victims, and there is no reason to single out certain groups.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin was one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan Senate bill that Mary Pollock, a NOW legislative vice president, says her group prefers.

"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, homosexual and transgender people to be about the same as in the general population, yet that abuse is reported less. That's why Dawn Dalton says the House bill should not have excluded them.

"We've got to be able to include the victims that need the services. There's no cutting back that we should be doing. It's only improving and broadening the reach."

The Violence Against Women Act expires in September. Both sides say they support reauthorization, but no official negotiations have been scheduled to work out a compromise.

President Obama has threatened to veto anything that looks like the House version.

The NOW statement is at: tinyurl.com/7kd2qjv.

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

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL