Violence Against Women Act Could Finally Be Renewed – Without Proposed Gun Safety Provision

A bipartisan group of US senators introduced a bill last week to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – a 1994 law credited with a significant reduction in domestic violence whose renewal has been delayed due to Republican objections to a proposed gun safety provision.

This provision has been dropped. The measure introduced on Wednesday would not end the so-called “boyfriend loophole”, which allows people convicted of domestic violence against a partner they are not married to buy guns.

In 2019, after VAWA expired, the only House Democrat who voted against renewal did so on a boyfriend getaway provision. Senate Republicans also said they could not support a bill that could infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms and talks failed.

In December, after three years of negotiations, Democratic Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California, and Republican Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced that they had reached to a consensus on a bipartisan framework to re-authorize VAWA. They worked through some final details last week.

Although the measure introduced last Wednesday would not close the boyfriend loophole, it already has the support of at least nine Republican senators, meaning it has a good chance of passing in the 100-seat chamber. equally divided, where most laws require the support of 60 senators.

“So folks, I’m a survivor,” Ernst said at a press conference where the senators were joined by actress and activist Angelina Jolie. “I know firsthand what happens when someone you trust mistreats you.”

“I’ve said many times throughout this process, I want to come up with a solution that will not just be a political talking point for one side or the other, but a bill that can get bipartisan support. needed to pass the Senate. and truly deliver for my fellow survivors of this life changing abuse,” Ernst added.

Durbin said the senators are “dangerously close” to having the 60 votes to pass the renewal and that it was a “tough choice” to drop the boyfriend loophole provision, but that it could be introduced as a separate measure.

The timing of the vote in the Senate is unclear. The House, which has a Democratic majority, passed a renewal of VAWA last year, but will have to vote again on which version the Senate can pass.

The National Rifle Association opposes closing the boyfriend loophole, making support for the gun safety provision a political risk for Republican lawmakers. The gun advocacy group has spent more than $22 million during the 2020 election cyclealmost all of whom supported the Republicans or opposed the Democrats.

“That provision became controversial and we had to measure the rest of the bill against that provision,” Durbin said.

Jolie has made several visits to Washington over the past few months to seek reauthorization from VAWA. She said “the reason many people find it difficult to leave abusive situations is that they have felt worthless”.

“When there’s silence from a Congress too busy to renew the Violence Against Women Act…it reinforces that sense of worthlessness,” Jolie said.

VAWA requires reauthorizations from Congress because it was drafted with a five-year sunset provision to update funding levels for its grant programs. If VAWA expires, as it did in early 2019, but is not reauthorized, its existing programs may be funded in budgets proposed by the President and approved by Congress, but changing or adding provisions require congressional action and the president’s signature.

President Joe Biden guided VAWA through Congress when he was a senator, and during his White House campaign and since calling on lawmakers to renew the legislation.

Delay “not an option”

Biden said last year that “delay is not an option” and cited reports that domestic violence had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men reported experiencing physical violence from an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Government data does not disaggregate gender sex or account for non-binary people, but research suggests transgender people face high rates of intimate partner violence and additional barriers to receiving help.

In the 25 years since VAWA passed, the rate of domestic violence has dropped by more than 50%, according to government statistics.

The measure introduced Wednesday would authorize a grant program for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic violence and extend the jurisdiction of tribal courts to certain non-Native American perpetrators of domestic violence with sexual assault or child abuse on tribal lands. It also includes a pilot program for Alaska Native people.

Murkowski said a 2020 survey showed that more than half of women in her home state of Alaska have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence or both in their lifetime. There are “jurisdictional complexities due to geography, isolated communities with sparse populations, you can have a situation where you literally have no law enforcement.”

“Every victim should know that there can be a path to justice,” Murkowski said.

This story was originally published on February 9, 2022 by The 19.

Back To Top