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Why some oppose extension to Violence Against Women Act

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2013 12:12 p.m. MST

Republicans are shown who voted against the Violence Against Women Act.

Mercedes White, c/o ThinkProgress

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On Tuesday, Feb. 11, the Senate voted in favor of legislation to renew and expand the Violence Against Women Act, reported the Los Angles Times. The legislation, which passed 78-22, now heads to the House of Representatives for approval. The bill reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act and extends services to homosexuals, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, the lead author of the bill, said he is hopeful that this year the House will take up the Senate-passed re-authorization of VAWA. “This is a good bill,” Leahy said, according to a news report filed by The Hill. “It makes needed changes recommended by victims and those who work with them everyday," he said. “A victim of sexual assault or domestic violence is a victim,” Leahy added. "A victim is a victim is a victim, and violence is violence is violence."

The bill enjoyed bipartisan support with more than 20 Republican senators joining with Democrats to pass the legislation, according to The Hill. President Barack Obama praised the Senate for its cooperation in a White House press release: "It's now time for the House to follow suit and send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law."

But some Senate Republicans are deeply concerned about the implications of the bill. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, for example, opposes a provision in the bill that "grants tribal courts jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against non-Native Americans on tribal lands," reported Politico.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, expressed similar concern, suggesting that under this legislation Americans living or working on tribal land would be subject to tribal courts if accused of domestic violence or rape and not have the constitutional trial protections, reported Talking Points Memo, a political news blog.

“Because the Justice Department has not carried out its charge to protect those Native American people … this solution is to trample on the Bill of Rights of every American who is not Native American?” Coburn said ahead of the vote Monday.

Another conservative criticism of the law is that it "represents a 'feminist' attack on family values," reported Molly Ball for the Altantic Wire. "The ideological foundations of the law are flawed and have led to an inability to help victims effectively," according to one of Ball's sources, Christina Villegas, a visiting fellow at the conservative Independent Women's Forum.

"VAWA is premised on the theory that violence against women is a product of sexism and patriarchy — 'men's desire to keep women down' and the sexes' unequal social status," according to Villegas. But research shows that such violence has many sources, from substance abuse to marital conflict, according to Villegas. "VAWA provides so much funding (based on this model) that could be so much more effective if it focused on the proven causes of violence," she added.

Senate Republicans are taking a beating politically for their position on this legislation. Bloggers at ThinkProgress, an economics and politics blog, were quick to point out that all of the 22 senators who opposed the bill were male.

As the bill moves to the House, several Republican representatives have signaled a willingness to support the controversial bill, a development some political commentators suggest is an attempt to repair the image of the GOP among women in time for the 2014 elections.

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