No Re-Authorization for Violence Act; Senate Passes Inclusive Hate Crimes Legislation-Moves to House

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Thousands of Shelters Could Lose Funding

It's back to square one on re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 1248) now that Congress has recessed for the summer without taking a vote on this critically important bill. Extensive partisan wrangling delayed progress for renewal of the 1994 landmark law that has funded $1.6 billion in law enforcement, shelter services, education and prevention programs over the last six years. The Department of Justice announced in May that violence against women by intimate partners fell by 21 percent between 1993 and 1998.

Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., a powerful subcommittee chair, is keeping H.R. 1248 from reaching the floor. On the last day before the recess, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., would not let a vote take place on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (S. 2869) unless his compromise VAWA (S. 2787, co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah) was placed on the calendar. Democrats attempted to expedite the process with a rarely used hotline procedure, but the Republicans refused to go along.

Meanwhile, funding for some VAWA programs has ended, and without any congressional action in September, all federal support will expire on Oct. 1. Only a huge outpouring of grassroots messages and the active involvement of Congressional leadership can help break the logjam.

Restoring Violence Against Women Act Protections

In the wake of the Supreme Court's invalidation of VAWA's civil rights remedy for gender-based violence in the Christy Brzonkala case (Brzonkala v. Morrison), Rep. John Conyers, Jr., DMich., introduced the VAWA Civil Rights Restoration Act of 2000. On May 15, the Court found that under the Commerce Clause and the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, Congress lacked authority to authorize victims to sue their attackers in federal court. The Court asserted that this is a matter for states to address. (See related story on page 5)

Model state legislation, already introduced in Illinois, is available through NOW by e-mailing govtrel@now.org or calling 202-628-8669, ext. 101. A copy of the model bill will be in the next Legislative Update sent to subscribers to NOW's e-mail Action Alert network. Sign up by sending the e-mail message "subscribe-now-action-list" to majordomo@ now.org.

Rep. Michael Forbes, D-N.Y., and 23 House members introduced a bill to establish a statutory basis for the Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) in the Department of Justice. The office was originally established through administrative action, and in January it was proposed that the office be dismantled or downgraded.

Additionally, VAWO's director Bonnie Campbell has been nominated for a judgeship with the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Right-wing opponents have announced that they will fight the nomination on the basis of her strong record in combating violence against women.

Hate Crimes Victory in Senate

In one of the few victories that women's rights advocates have seen this year, the Senate passed a strong hate crimes prevention bill. Renamed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (S. Amdt.3473, to the defense authorization bill), it would add sex, sexual-orientation and disability hate crimes to federal criminal statutes and remove the overly restrictive requirement that the victim have been engaged in a constitutionally protected act, like voting, in order to warrant federal assistance. The bill faces a major hurdle in moving through the House at the end of this congressional session when there will be numerous other measures pending.

Father's Rights Cause Finds Friends in Congress

The catchword for this political season seems to be "fatherhood," with politicians in both political parties trying to gain ground by supporting programs to help absent, non-custodial dads. Activists in the men's rights movement are attempting to breathe life into the Fathers Count Act (H. …