What’s interesting about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is that only a fraction of the full text paints women as the only type of victims it is designed to protect. Otherwise, it is full of generalities that could apply to people of either sex: spouse, partner, abuser, victim, etc. Except for some titles, subheads and statistics, the text of this legislation is almost always ambiguous enough to include male victims. An attempt by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to clarify this is not quite the “expansion” that opponents paint it to be.
VAWA is up for renewal this year, and it might have been renewed already if not for some concerns by Senate Republicans about extending domestic abuse protections to LGBTs, illegal immigrants and Native Americans. (It’s worth noting that an entire title of the 2005 law concerns Native women exclusively.) This would be done through Leahy’s bill, which does the following:
- prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity;
- gives Native tribes jurisdiction over abusers if their ties to the tribe in question are strong enough; and
- allows police to request visas for victims who are illegal immigrants and who are assisting their investigations.
Meanwhile, the GOP version sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) would extend the current law, eliminate all of the above amendments, and add provisions targeting related fraud, namely marriage fraud. He dubs the anti-discrimination provision “a solution in search of a problem” (does it need one if it doesn’t mandate anything except not being an asshole?). His problem with the tribal provision is the contention that these courts could have jurisdiction over any American. Which, as you’ll see in section 904, is not true.
I have absolutely no problem with the first two, although I am slightly baffled that the second one didn’t already exist. Clearly tribal politics in America is a horse of a different color. The third one is causing the most controversy so far, for the usual reasons. I would tentatively deem aiding a domestic abuse case an acceptable justification for a visa. Leahy’s other two provisions and Grassley’s fraud provisions, meanwhile, can and should peacefully co-exist.
Vacation update: Attempted to use the Nice Ride MN program in a park in north Minneapolis. Until then, I hadn’t been on any bike since I was 10 years old. Turns out my legs are too short to handle an adult-sized bike. Get some women’s and youth sizes in there! Later, took in a Twins-Red Sox game at Target Field, which is basically the best sports venue ever. The Twins got blown out.