We Applaud the House for Breaking Political Gridlock and Reauthorizing VAWA

February 28, 2013

Today, the House of Representatives reauthorized the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and sent it to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law. We congratulate House Republicans for breaking the political gridlock on the new provisions added in the bill by the Senate and voting for the greater good.

Written to protect women against domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking problems, VAWA was introduced in 1994 by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), and it supports comprehensive, effective and cost-saving responses to these crimes. The Senate version of the bill included protections for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) communities, Native Americans and immigrant women. The reauthorization of this bill is a victory overcoming political gridlock in the politically divided House.

Twice before, the bill was reauthorized without controversy since its introduction. This year, House Republicans stalled on reauthorization because of provisions to allow minority communities equal access to VAWA programs. However, for the third time since December, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) allowed a bill to go to vote despite his party split on the issue.

While VAWA was reauthorized by a 286-138 vote, only 87 Republicans voted in favor of the reauthorization. Commendation should go to women’s groups, who upon finding out the bill would not get passed because of a strong conservative bloc in the House, joined interfaith and community organizations to push for a strong campaign to vote for VAWA.

Earlier this year, the Muslim Public Affairs Council launched a campaign, "Voices for VAWA: Muslims Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse," to involve the American Muslim community in advocating for the passage of VAWA in Congress. MPAC’s campaign included a community toolkit to activate citizens to contact their members of Congress and urge them to vote in favor of passing the bill.

Haris Tarin, the director of MPAC’s Washington, DC, office, published an op-ed, “An American Muslim Man’s Case for VAWA,” on the Huffington Post explaining why VAWA should be a central concern for American Muslims:

“Besides our community being heavily impacted by this issue, it is our prophetic tradition to stand up for the most vulnerable in society and inspire our communities to engage in the advocacy process. American Muslim institutions, mosques and leaders should be at the forefront of advocating on this legislation.”

Aside from the obvious victory on getting VAWA to Obama’s desk with all the original Senate provisions included, the House’s reauthorization shows how moderate Republican voices can shift the perception of their conservative party and work with Democrats on important, nonpartisan issues.

At the end of the day, protecting women from domestic and sexual abuse should not be a partisan issue. When having the vision for the greater good, working on legislation becomes much easier. While the road to reauthorization was not easy, we applaud members of Congress who led our nation on this issue and, regardless of political affiliation, voted to protect women.

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