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To Sen. Grassley: Put down the political football

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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The renewal of the Violence Against Women Act remains uncertain because the majority of Republicans in the U.S. Senate continue to vocalize concerns against the new draft.

Along with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is at the forefront of the bill's opposition. Grassley's opposition and obvious politicization of this lifesaving legislation is embarrassing to the state of Iowa and its forward-thinking residents.

The focus today should be on bettering circumstances for all citizens and improving the safety of all Americans instead of paralyzing progress and stagnating public safety because of discrepancies in value-based politics.

The act was originally passed as an effort to stem the rising tide of battery and sexual assault against women in the early and late-90s. It has now infiltrated the very core of the treatment and enforcement, changing the previous culture of apathy toward these hideous, violent crimes.

Since the its birth in 1994, the renewal and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been a mere formality supported by both sides of the aisle — but once again an important, public-safety issue has become a political football for the little games of a political elite.

Critics such as Grassley have utilized overt politicization of the act by insinuating that Democrats are incorporating clauses regarding immigration regulation, protection of minorities, and LGBT rights for their own political gains.

While the partisan motives of the supporters of act's renewal may be called into question, their terms of renewal are warranted and necessary additions.

"I wish we could proceed in a consensus fashion again," Grassley said in a statement. "But there are provisions in the bill before us that have never been part of [the act] before. They're not consensus items."

Apparently, civil rights amounting to equality in the face thoughtless violence aren't consensus items for Iowa anymore — such as one item, allowing Native American tribes to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit domestic and sexual crimes on reservations against its inhabitants.

Or another, increasing the number of visas available for illegal immigrants who were victims of domestic and sexual violence from 10,000 to 15,000.

Will it prevent people from harm? Yes. Then pass the legislation.

Linda Stewart Kroon, the director of the Women's Resource & Action Center, fights for the prevention and treatment of violence against women every day.

"The [act] has had a positive impact on the lives of people of all genders, and I would hate to see us go backwards from where we are," she said. "Partisan politics completely distracts from what the issue really is."

Instead of focusing on the pertinent issues of sexual discrimination and violence, Grassley is distracted by the shallow and archaic platform of a blind and prideful partisan institution.

"The substitute creates so many new programs for underserved populations that it risks losing the focus of helping victims. If every group is a priority, then of course no group is a priority," Grassley said about the provisions during a hearing.

Though this is one of his main arguments against the bill, it holds no merit but instead proves the point: Every victimized group should be an equal priority. Every group that is victimized by sexual violence and domestic abuse should be protected under law — hence the extra provisions in the bill. If there are still people being abused, there are still more provisions to be put in.

This applies to LGBT rights as well.

When it comes to developments in these rights, the new provisions redefine antidiscrimination rhetoric to be all-inclusive. That way, a Christian shelter for victims of domestic violence shouldn't be legally permitted to turn down a subject based on her or his sexual orientation.

When it comes to violence, no one should be permitted to discriminate who gets protected based on anything.

"The government has an obligation to protect minorities," said Quentin Hill, an executive for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Allied Union group at UI. "It's outrageous for someone who's supposed to represent all Iowans to oppose this kind of legislation, especially one concerning violence against anyone."

For Grassley to oppose the passage of this legislation is an embarrassment to the state of Iowa. Allowing petty, partisan concerns to delegitimize a necessary humanitarian cause does not support the constituency Grassley took a vow to represent. Human lives are at risk here in Iowa, and partisan bickering shouldn't be holding up progress.

"I'm really disappointed to see yet another common-sense piece of legislation be brought down to petty partisan politics," Kroon said.

And, Sen. Grassley, so are we.


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