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ATLANTA, GA. – The Violence Against Women Act has finally been reauthorized after expiring two years ago. Georgia Republican members of the House snubbed the law, though, without a single ‘yea’, and two Georgia representatives choosing to not even show up for the vote. In 2020, Georgia ranked 10th in the nation for its rate of men killing women. The vote came a day after a white man opened fire on three separate massage businesses in Georgia, killing six Asian American women and two men.
Georgia’s Republican congressional representatives are all white men with the exception of Q-Anon believer and domestic terrorist sympathizer Rep. Marjorie Green. Congressman Earl L. Carter (R-Pooler) and Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) did not vote on the bill.
The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization has maintained funding through Congressional appropriation, but Republicans have held back the official passage of the bill. This is reportedly due to new provisions in the bill addressing additional protections for LGBTQIA+ victims and gun safety.
This landmark legislation, first authored by then-Sen. Joe Biden and the late Rep. Louise Slaughter in 1994, was the first piece of federal legislation to address violence against women. This includes sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. It was not perfect then. It’s not perfect now. But it is an important and necessary bill if the United States is to live up to its responsibility of protecting women and gender non-conforming people from violence.
What’s new in the bill?
Important updates to the law include new provisions to give Native American tribes jurisdiction to prosecute certain violent acts. Right now, tribes struggle to protect women from violence committed by non-tribal citizens on tribal lands – including sexual assault.
Also included is an additional $10 million in funding for the Rape Prevention and Education Program, which funds state and community-based programs.
Further, the bill closes the “boyfriend loophole” in firearm purchases. It bars anyone convicted of stalking or domestic abuse from purchasing firearms. This provision has been a focus of domestic violence prevention organizations nationwide. In Georgia, this restriction only applies to convicted parties who are married, cohabitating or who share children with the victim.
Finally, $40 million is allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services programs specifically addressing the needs of communities of color. Keep an eye on this provision. Black Wall Street Times will be watching closely to see who leads these efforts and is charged with strategy and implementation.
VAWA now moves to the Senate. Senate Democrats face a numbers problem since it requires some Republican votes to pass. VAWA is likely to be blocked by Senate Republicans.