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Violence Against Women Act Stalls

June 4, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Violence Against Women Act has been renewed twice with bipartisan support since 1994, but this year's reauthorization has become part of the election year political battle. The Senate passed a version of the bill (S 1925) that covers immigrants, Native Americans and lesbian, gay and transgender people (LGBT) who are victims of domestic abuse. Women's advocates favor that version over a weaker House bill (HR 4970).

The House bill excludes many domestic-abuse victims, people who historically have fallen through the cracks, explains Mary Pollack with the National Organization for Women (NOW). NOW opposes the House version, she says, calling it an "atrocious bill."

"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."

West Virginia Sens. Rockefeller and Manchin are co-sponsors of the Senate version. Reps. Capito and McKinley voted for the House bill, while Rahall voted against it. President Obama has threatened to veto the House version.

House Republican leaders say their bill protects all victims and that there is no reason for the bill to single out certain groups. However, proponents of the Senate bill say the domestic abuse rate in the LGBT community is similar to the general population, and yet that abuse is reported less. Pollock says House Republicans do not want to face that 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."

Leaders of more than 30 religious groups also oppose the House bill, saying it rolls back current protections for "battered non-citizens." The Violence Against Women Act expires in September. Both sides say they favor reauthorizing it, although negotiations to resolve their differences have yet to be scheduled.

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

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV