“NO” on the Violence Against Women Act
This week, the Senate is expected to vote on the deceptively named Violence Against Women Act of 2011 (VAWA) (S.1925). This bill would reauthorize and expand the 1994 law that made domestic violence – typically handled by state and local governments – a federal crime.
Despite a lack of scientific evidence supporting the program’s effectiveness, the Senate’s “reauthorization” of VAWA would expand coverage to men, homosexuals, transgendered individuals and prisoners, and expand already duplicative grant programs.
For the first time in our nation’s history, the bill would allow non-Native Americans accused of domestic violence on tribal lands to be tried in those tribal courts, thereby eliminating the right of the accused to face a jury of their peers. Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights to due process, presumption of innocence, equal treatment under the law, the right to a fair trial and to confront one’s accusers, the right to bear arms, and all custody/visitation rights. It is unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.
S.1925 would also broaden the definition of domestic violence to include causing “emotional distress” or using “unpleasant speech.” This expansive and vague language will increase fraud and false allegations, for which there is no legal recourse. By contrast, women (or under this proposal, homosexual men and transgendered individuals) receive free legal counsel even if there’s no evidence of injury or harm.
Expanding this law to include new groups would also require more funding and resources in order to carry out the new provisions. In short, simply because this bill has a catchy name does not make up for the harmful policy within.
Heritage Action opposes the Violence Against Women Act and will include it as a key vote on our scorecard.