CONGRESS should move this week to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which is vital to protecting more than 67,000 victims every day from abuse.
Friday, House Republican leaders spurned the Senate’s bipartisan bill and created a watered-down version that is unpalatable to many members.
Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash, the House measure omits the Senate’s proposed protections specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The bill also limits the rights of tribes to prosecute non-Native American abusers by giving suspects the opportunity to move their cases to an overburdened federal court.
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News reports quote unnamed GOP aides defending their measure as more inclusive because it remains broad and does not identify groups of protected citizens.
Some advocates don’t buy that argument.
“This legislation lacks necessary protections for victims of violence and rolls back current law,” the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women writes in a statement responding to the House bill’s introduction.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is even more blunt: “House Republican leadership just doesn’t get it.”
Without some definition, advocates argue, many women within at-risk populations are falling through the cracks. If they cannot access services, they cannot escape their abusers or seek justice.
On Feb. 12, 78 senators passed a reauthorization bill to save the Violence Against Women Act. Only 22 were opposed.
House members should be afforded the same opportunity to vote on the Senate’s bipartisan framework.