Hutchison’s effort to exclude LGBT victims from domestic violence bill shows there’s a lot of work still to be done on this critically important issue
The threat of LGBT domestic violence evidently remains a mysterious and inconsequential issue to many American lawmakers and their constituents, even after decades of discussion in the alternative media about its prevalence and severity.
It became clear during the recent debate about LGBT domestic violence in connection with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 by Congress that many conservative politicians neither understand the issue, nor care what happens to LGBT victims. The apathy to the violence exhibited by some politicians should shock anyone who believes everyone deserves protection from physical and sexual abuse by oppressors, particularly inside their own homes by the people with whom they live.
The renewal of the VAWA featured an expansion to include protections for LGBT victims of domestic abuse for the first time, and it gave anti-gay forces a platform to express their disregard for some groups’ human rights. The expansion also included provisions for granting emergency visas for illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic violence.
One of the more shocking remarks was made by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Dallas, who enjoys a surprising amount of support from LGBT constituents in light of her conservative, anti-gay voting record. Hutchison and 14 other Republicans wound up voting for the act, which passed the Senate 63 to 31, but only after she offered an alternative piece of legislation that omitted LGBT and immigrant victims of violence from the reauthorization.
In presenting her rejected alternative legislation, Hutchison said she had “worked with many of my colleagues to have a substitute that has the same coverage but is better in other ways.”
There is no way to view Hutchison’s remarks as anything other than a heartless expression of indifference to the plight of LGBT people and illegal immigrants who suffer violence in their homes at the hands of their partners and spouses. No matter how many LGBT people come forward to defend Hutchison as “nice” and “gracious,” she has revealed herself to be as compassionless as every other bigot that promotes anti-gay and anti-immigrant discrimination.
The Senate version of VAWA ensures protection of all victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives version that is expected to be voted on in May mirrors the Hutchison model. Drafted by Republican Rep. Sandy Adams of Florida, the House version of VAWA omits protections for LGBT people and excludes emergency visas for illegal immigrants.
In yet another telling statement revealing either ignorance about the issue of LGBT domestic violence, indifference about the problem or more than likely both, Adams said her version of VAWA was designed to ensure “taxpayer resources help victims — not Washington bureaucrats.” She added, “It is my hope that colleagues in both the House and Senate can put politics aside and support this lifesaving legislation.”
If the House version of the VAWA passes, then differences in the bill would probably be negotiated in a conference committee. As it stands now, the Senate version would recognize LGBT people as under-served populations, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by service organizations and allow states to use VAWA funding to support LGBT programs related to domestic violence. The House version would offer no guarantees for LGBT people.
The Texas Council on Family Violence includes an LGBT Caucus and it advocates for education to combat the myths that it claims help perpetuate LGBT domestic violence and prevent substantive efforts such as the pending federal legislation to combat it. One of the biggest myths is that battering and abuse do not exist in same-sex relationships, and the problem is confined to men battering women, which would appear to be the fallacy driving the agenda of Rep. Adams.
Other myths about LGBT domestic violence include that it only affects certain socio-economic groups in the LGBT community, that it is a mutual-battering phenomena, that LGBT people can easily leave abusive relationships and that it is caused only by substance abuse, stress, provocation and other similar factors. All of those myths are easily debunked by the facts, according to the family violence organization.
Despite widespread support from social justice advocates, domestic abuse social workers and other progressive thinkers, mainstream America obviously never got the message about LGBT domestic violence. It’s doubtful the mainstream media ever paid much attention to the problem either.
The debate in Congress has focused attention on how much work is left to be done on the issue of LGBT domestic violence, not only in terms of providing relief and services to the victims but also in raising public awareness.
It appears that the more than two decades of discussion about the problem has failed to attract widespread attention in the LGBT community, and it may not be on the radar of younger LGBT people at all.
There are at least four national resources regarding LGBT domestic violence: Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project (www.gmdvp.org), Cambridge, Mass.; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Denver, Colo. (www. ncadv.org); National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, New York, N.Y. (www.avp.org); and National Domestic Violence Hotline, Austin (800-799-SAFE).
For anyone in the LGBT community who is suffering in a domestic violence situation, those resources are available to answer questions and suggest solutions. And for LGBT communities where a local anti-domestic violence program has not yet been established, there’s no better time than now while the topic is in the forefront to launch one.
David Webb has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 4, 2012.