Monday, March 4, 2013

New Orleans NOW president blasts Scalise for no vote on VAWA

New Orleans NOW president blasts Scalise for no vote on Violence Against Women Act

By Bruce Alpert, | Times-Picayune 
on March 04, 2013 at 2:50 PM, updated March 04, 2013 at 3:49 PM
WASHINGTON - The president of the Greater New Orleans National Organization for Women is taking Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, to task for voting against a bill reauthorizing and expanding the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. The bill passed 286-138 last week, with 87 Republicans joining 199 Democrats in voting yes.

"Shame on him, is all we can say," said Charlotte Klasson, the NOW New Orleans president. "We are just relieved that women have the protections they need without his support."

Scalise, in a statement, said that, as a father and a husband, he was happy to vote for a GOP version of the bill, which didn't include some of the modifications incorporated into the Senate bill that won House approval last week despite his opposition.

He said the Senate version "promoted an extreme liberal social agenda and, like the Family Research Council (FRC) pointed out, was more focused on weakening laws and denying grants to some of the organizations that are best equipped to fight human trafficking simply because of their religious affiliations."

The conservative FRC, in a letter to House members, warned that the Senate bill could block groups like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from receiving federal grants to combat violence against woman because of their religious objections to abortion. It also complained about a U-visa provision that protects victims of some violent crimes from deportation by granting them legal status and work authorization.

The bill, the research council said, "uses the Violence Against Women Act as a vehicle to advance the expansion of tribal jurisdiction, immigration visas and unnecessary anti-discrimination laws."

The Senate bill provides services to the victims of domestic and dating violence, adding protection no matter their sexual orientation or gender. It also allows Native American tribes to prosecute non-Indian defendants for crimes related to domestic violence.
The bill also authorizes programs to prevent human trafficking, sexual assault on college campuses, and for dealing with shortages of rape kits used for victims of sexual assault.
Scalise and two other Louisiana Republicans who voted against the bill voted for a GOP alternative, which removed language related to gender identity and sexual identification and giving the national American tribes the authority to try non-Indian defendants.
That measure failed 257-166, with 60 Republicans voting no.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said the GOP-led House, which failed to pass the Senate bill in the last Congress, did the right thing by enacting it now.

"This is a major accomplishment in the fight to protect and provide assistance to the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence," Richmond said. "We have an obligation to ensure the protection of women in Louisiana and across the nation from senseless acts of violence."

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc., a victim of domestic and sexual violence, said that all victims, regardless of race or sexual orientation, deserve protection. She said the rights of gay victims aren't protected in the GOP alternative.

"As I think about the L.G.BT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) victims who are not here, the native women who are not here, the immigrants who aren't in this bill, I would say, as Sojourner Truth would say, 'Ain't they women? Ain't they women?"

Klasson of the New Orleans NOW Chapter praised Richmond and other supporters of the bill, but said that Scalise, instead of "listening to the Family Research Council in Washington, " should have consulted women in his own district who would tell him the Senate bill he opposed provides important protections.

President Barack Obama has promised to sign the bill into law.

"Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse," the president said. "Today's vote will go even further by continuing to reduce domestic violence, improving how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community."

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