The PJ Tatler

VAWA Is Just Bad Policy. Period.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio – and twenty-one other GOP senators – voted against the Violence Against Women Act.  Left-wingers were aghast.  How could they supportive of men who beat up women?  Should we call them the Ike Turner caucus? Yes, only a moron could deduce that conservatives hate women because a few voted against a bill that’s used as political ammunition against anyone who dares to challenge it.  Then again, we’re talking about liberals.  I have no problem with these senators trying to stop a progressive hijacking of what was a bipartisan bill.

As Betsy Woodruff at National Review wrote on February 14, the bill was crafted by then-Senator Joe Biden (D- Delaware) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R- Utah) in 1994.  It passed with bipartisan support, and was subsequently reauthorized, without any hitches, in 2000 and 2005.  Then, Barack Obama came into the spotlight, and progressive steroids were injected into the liberal movement.  To use a term from Ari Melber, the ‘Obamafication’ of the Democratic Party led to the logrolling of gays, illegal immigrants, and Native Americans into the bill. Here are some of the details:

The current Senate version of VAWA would give tribal courts jurisdiction over the cases just described. That sounds simple enough, but it’s actually incredibly problematic for many conservatives. Tribal courts aren’t bound by the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and often “fail to provide due process,” as the Republican committee members’ report argues. So passage of the law would undermine the constitutional rights of American citizens. And if tribal courts have jurisdiction over these cases, why not give them jurisdiction over others?

Senator Hatch argued this on February 7, saying that the latest version of the bill he used to support “not only stops short of guaranteeing all constitutional rights but also does not provide for direct review of convictions in U.S. courts. I simply cannot support depriving American citizens of constitutional rights and judicial protection.” Sounds reasonable.

Another problem with the latest version of VAWA is a provision intended to provide extra protection to LGBT abuse victims. That’s also an admirable goal — sexual orientation shouldn’t keep people from getting help — but the legislation could make shelters (many of which operate on shoestring budgets) unduly vulnerable to lawsuits. David Muhlhausen of the Heritage Foundation argues that the anti-discrimination provisions could mean that if an all-female shelter turned down protection to a gay man, the man might be able to sue.

Let the gay/female/Indian brawl begin!

Alas, we see what happens when government does too much.  However, some folks, like Molly Ball at the Atlantic, are puzzled as to why conservatives are against this bill.  I guess she doesn’t read NRO to see the potential nightmare that awaits if the Senate version passes the House, but I commend Ball for speaking with Christina Villegas of the Independent Women’s Forum, and not going off on a liberal tirade.

Conservatives are against VAWA because it’s gross congressional overreach.  As Julie Borowski of FreedomWorks wrote on her blog last week:

The VAWA made domestic violence a federal crime but it is not an issue that should be handled by the federal government because it is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Like other wrongdoings such as murder and theft, it is properly handled on the state and local level, in accordance with the 10th amendment.

The VAWA cost a lot of dough—$660 million, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates— for a duplicative law that has shown no real evidence of reducing domestic violence.

What exactly counts as domestic violence? The newest version of the VAWA, S.47, contains very vague and broad definitions of domestic violence. A man that raises his voice at his partner, calls her an offensive name, stalks her, causes her any emotional distress, or simply just annoys her can potentially be prosecuted under the VAWA. Calling your spouse a mean name is not advised or polite, but it isn’t the same thing as violence towards her.

Violence against anyone is bad —that shouldn’t even need to be said. Unfortunately, the VAWA reinforces ugly stereotypes about men and women. Supporters of the law portray men as natural predators that are never on the other side of domestic violence. However, in a 2010 national survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it was found that 40% of the victims of domestic violence are men and half of all partner violence is mutual.

Luckily, an egregious part of the bill, which allowed victims to sue their attackers in federal court, was ruled unconstitutional in 2000 via United States v. Morrison.  Gayle Trotter, also of the Independent Women’s Forum, added in her post in April of 2012 that:

VAWA now touches hot button immigration issues, which have the potential to encourage immigration fraud, false allegations of abuse, and denial of a rebuttal by the accused spouse, whether male or female.

Americans all want to deter violence, but we also need to protect that foundational principle of the presumption of innocence.  As Frances McInnis wrote in Slate: “People who are wrongly accused can face high legal fees, a ruined reputation, and even jail time.” Needed resources like shelters and legal aid can be taken by false accusers, denying real victims of abuse access to these supports. That result runs directly counter to the VAWA’s spirit.

In all, the bill, as Trotter noted, reinforces and codifies gender stereotypes, wastes money on programs that do little to deter – or prevent – violence against women, and federalizes a local issue.  We federalized education with No Child Left Behind, and its level of success is dubious at best. As Villegas said to Ball, “having the courage to question various sections of this bill doesn’t make you pro-abuse or anti-women. No bill should receive unconditional support because its intentions are noble or its title sounds beneficial.”