The House approved the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization on Thursday with added protections for American Indian, undocumented and LGBT communities. The Republican version of the bill was rejected.
Both sides shared moving stories and passionate speeches during the debate. Both sides argued their version of VAWA protects “all” women.
Representative Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Wisconsin, told her colleagues the House Republican amendment would leave out the most vulnerable groups like undocumented immigrants and American Indian women.
"I would say as Sojourner Truth would say: ‘Ain’t they women?!’" Moore said. "They deserve protections. We talk about constitutional rights. Don’t women on tribal lands deserve constitutional right of equal protection and not to be raped and battered and beaten and dragged back onto native lands because they know they can be raped with impunity. Ain’t they women?!"
Moore has shared her personal story of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The House Republicans modified a Senate provision that allows tribal courts expanded jurisdiction to deal with non-Native offenders. Moore told her colleagues if a woman is raped on the Chippewa reservation by a non-Native, the only person who has authority is a federal agent 500 miles away in Madison.
Many House Republicans opposed the Senate version of VAWA because they say this provision is unconstitutional. Susan Brooks, a Republican from Indiana, said it came down to politics.
"This shouldn’t be about politics and the fighting and about political party control," Brooks said. "In my short time in Congress I’ve seen too often we lose sight of the people that we are here to protect and serve."
President Barack Obama has said he would sign only the enhanced Senate version, which will reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act through 2018.
For more Fronteras Desk news, visit fronterasdesk.org.