20 years after the Violence Against Women Act, how far have we come?

 

President Barack Obama issued a proclamation today recognizing the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and calling “upon men and women of all ages, communities, organizations and all levels of government to work in collaboration to end violence against women.”

The proclamation comes a day after TMZ.com released video footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-girlfriend/now-wife Janay Palmer out cold in an elevator — video footage that prompted the Ravens to terminate Rice’s and prompted the NFL to suspend him indefinitely. That sounds reasonable, except that the incident back in March and in July NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell only suspended Rice for two games. (Rice was originally charged with felony assault but the charges were dropped when Palmer refused to testify against him.)

Originally, the only video footage made public showed the moments after the elevator doors opened and Rice dragged the unconscious Palmer part of the way out of the elevator and then left her laying in a heap on the floor. The video released this week by TMZ, taken by a camera inside the elevator, shows the brutal punch to the face that knocked her out.

As President Obama said in his proclamation today, it was 20 years ago that “our nation came together to declare our commitment to end violence against women.” The VAWA “created a vital network of services for victims,” expanded the number of shelters and rape crisis centers across the country, and established a national hotline, the proclamation says. The VAWA also “imrpoved our criminal justice system and provided specialized training to law enforcement … . It spurred new state laws and protections and changed the way people think about domestic abuse … .”

But watching that video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer and considering the NFL’s initial lackluster response, it doesn’t seem like we’ve made much progress toward that goal.

Add in some statistical information, and it’s even more discouraging.

According to UNWomen.org, the website for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, a global review of available data conducted in 2013 (World Health Organization, Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women) shows that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence . But some national studies show that up to 70 percent of women have experience sexual or physical violence from an intimate partner.

The UNWomen website goes on to cite The World Health Organization’s World Report on Violence and Health, which says that in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims.

President Obama says that he was “proud to renew our pledge to our mothers and daughters by reauthorizing VAWA and extending its protections” last year. And while the VAWA has “provided hope, safety and a new chance at life for women and children across our nation,” the president acknowledges “we still have more work to do.”

“Too many women continue to live in fear in their own homes, too many victims still know the pain of abuse, and too many families have had to mourn the loss of their loved ones. It has to end — because even one is too many.”

Absolutely. But in the LGBT community we have to take it a step forward and remember that women are not the only victims of domestic violence, and men are not the only abusers.

According to a “fact sheet” published online by the Center for American Progress, 1 out of 4 to 1 out of 3 same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence. And domestic abuse violence victims in same-sex relationships face threats that their abuser will “out” them at work or to family, some face the threat of having their children taken away, and some are even afraid of doing damage to the LGBT rights movement by admitting that domestic violence happens in our community.

These and other reasons make LGBT domestic violence victims more reluctant to report such violence to police, and leaves them feeling isolated, alone and helpless.

President Obama is right. We’ve got a long way to go. We in the LGBT community have to make sure we are part of the effort against domestic violence, not just in the country as a whole, but in our own community — our own homes — too.

—  Tammye Nash

Group plans ‘massive protest’ at Cowboys Stadium

o-GOSFORD-ANGLICAN-facebookThe American Decency Association announced that thousands of people will descend on the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington to protest the team’s hiring Michael Sam for its practice squad.

The organization, which opposes pornography and indecency in the media, originally planned to picket in St. Louis. The group’s plans changed when Sam was released by the Rams earlier this week and then signed with Cowboys. “We cannot just stand idly by as Christian values and morals are trampled. We will do whatever we can to preserve family values in this country,” said Jack Burkman, a conservative lobbyist and head of American Decency, in a statement.

“Jerry Jones has betrayed American values, Christian values, and his own city’s values. The people of Dallas — and Christians all across this land — are about to make him pay a huge financial price. The Cowboys are no longer America’s team.”

Evidently the out gay Sam is contrary to God’s natural design for football watchers: straight men who drink beer and yell a lot.

They must have overlooked Jones’ provocative photos partying with younger women.

Or maybe they just alternate picketing schedules with the Westboro Baptist Church.

—  James Russell

Michael Sam in Dallas: Dale Hansen’s take

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Michael Sam, left, and Dale Hansen

As soon as we heard this week that Michael Sam was possibly coming to Dallas, my editorial staff and I started working on getting contacts for a story. We contacted the Dallas Cowboys public relations department. We contacted Sam’s agents. We contacted friends who contacted friends who knew somebody who knew …….

Well, you get the picture.

Wednesday afternoon late, I heard back from Sam’s agent, who informed me that Sam isn’t doing any “one-on-one interviews” right now because he just wants to focus on playing football. And you know what, I understand that. This is a young man who maybe didn’t get chosen as early in the draft as he might have been because of the media hoopla over the fact that he’s openly gay. He might have lost out on a spot on the St. Louis Rams roster for the same.

Everybody has been focused on Michael Sam’s sexual orientation and not his abilities as a football player. I am sure it’s frustrating for him. I understand that. Of course, as the largest LGBT newsmagazine in Texas, Michael Sam playing for the Cowboys is a story Dallas Voice has to go after. Even if we understand his desire to focus on football. Hopefully we can do it in a reasonable way, and talk about something other than what it might be like in the showers for Sam and his teammates (way to go, ESPN).

Yesterday, WFAA Channel 8 sportscaster Dale Hansen posted a piece on his blog, Dale Hansen Unplugged, that puts the situation in very clear, simple-to-understand terms: “He simply wants a chance.”

Hansen, who already won the hearts and minds of LGBTs across the country in February with his commentary on how ridiculous it is for the NFL to not have a problem with players who beat up their girlfriends, kill a teammate in a drunk driving accident or “lie to police to cover up a murder,” but then turn around and have such a huge problem with an openly gay player.

Hansen’s opinion on Michael Sam surprised a lot of people, and earned him a place of honor at this year’s Black Tie Dinner coming up in November.

This week, Hansen posted another Hansen Unplugged blog on Sam: “So the Cowboys decide to sign Michael Sam (and do we really need to say ‘The NFL’s first openly gay player?’ Geez, I hate hearing that every time his name is mentioned … and I would think he does, too).”

Hansen admits that Michael Sam being openly gay is a “very big” story, if for no other reason than “the first of anything is a big story.” At the same time, Hansen says he is fed up with the idea that Sam is too much of a “distraction” to play pro football. The real question is can Sam play at a pro level. “He simply wants a chance. The Cowboys are giving him that chance — nothing more, nothing less,” Hansen says.

As for all the other uproar, Hansen cemented his position as a valuable LGBT ally with this closing statement: “But the critics who are concerned about the decline of America because a gay man plays football disgust me, and I would hope they disgust you, too.”

Thanks Dale Hansen. We couldn’t agree more.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Michael Sam signs with Cowboys practice squad

Out NFL recruit Michael Sam has signed with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.

He previously was with the St. Louis Rams.

Check with the Voice for more news about the historic pick.

 

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Michael Sam in talks with Dallas Cowboys

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Michael Sam

The game’s not over for Michael Sam yet.

The first openly gay football player to be drafted by a national league, Sam meets with the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow to talk about joining the practice team, reports Outsports.

Sam was cut from the final round of drafts over the weekend by the St. Louis Rams. He was not considered for the practice team.

Earlier in the year, the Rams picked him in the last round of professional drafts.

The Texas native has said in the past that he grew up loving the Cowboys. A proud Texan (heehee!), he held out before signing with Mizzou because he wanted to go to A&M.

Hopefully we can welcome him home tomorrow.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Michael Sam cut by St. Louis Rams

Michael.SamMichael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay football player and a Texas native, was cut today, Aug. 30, in the seventh round of cuts by the St. Louis Rams.

The defensive player for the Rams may still be able to play for the practice team. “In order to place him on their practice squad, they would need to place him on the waiver wire for a day, thus making him available to the league’s other 31 teams,” The Los Angeles Times explains.

But NFL.com reports that “thirty-one other teams now have an opportunity to pluck Sam off waivers over the next 24 hours.”

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he was pulling for Sam, who got along well with the team, but the decision to cut him was ultimately a “football decision.”

He added “[Sam] has the ability to play someplace. It’s gotta be the right place, it’s gotta be a fit.”

All of the seventh round drafts were cut to reach the maximum of 53 players.

The University of Missouri graduate became the first openly gay NFL player in the final round of drafting for the NFL earlier this year.

—  James Russell

St. Louis Rams draft NFL’s first openly gay player

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Michael Sam

Michael Sam was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick in the NFL draft, The Washington Post reported.

The NFL stood on the brink of a historical decision Saturday and it took until nearly the end of the draft for Michael Sam to become the first openly gay player drafted into the league.

Sam, the SEC co-defensive player of the year at Missouri, was taken late in the seventh and final round by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick out of 256 over the three days of the draft. St. Louis is a great landing spot for him. The Rams have a stellar defense under Gregg Williams and he spent his college career just over two hours away.

Sam, filmed by ESPN as he received the phone call from Rams Coach Jeff Fisher, broke down and sobbed as he learned that he was going to the Rams.

A 24-year-old lineman from Hitchcock, Texas, Sam announced that he was gay shortly after the Super Bowl. His performance in the annual scouting combine was disappointing and many experts wondered if he would be drafted. Some questioned on Twitter just why Sam was going undrafted for so long, with only one SEC Defensive Player of the Year since 2004 not being taken among the first 33 picks in the draft. “For them not to select him would be very problematic,” Cyd Zeigler, the founder ofOutSports.com, said in a pre-draft interview with NBC News. “If he isn’t selected, it’s a public black eye on the league.”

—  Steve Ramos

Texas native and NFL hopeful Michael Sam talks nerves ahead of NFL draft

Screen shot 2014-05-07 at 1.04.39 PMMichael Sam hopes to make history Thursday as the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Sam, who came out earlier this year, spoke to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Wednesday about the NFL draft and how anxious he is about the experience.

“I’ve been thinking about this moment since junior year in college,” Sam said. “It’s a very nervous time, an exciting time. So I’m ready for it.”

The former Missouri defensive end grew up in Hitchcock, Texas, said he doesn’t care which team selects him Thursday, as long as he can play in the NFL.

“Where I’ll go, it doesn’t matter, as long as I get to play and put a jersey on my back,” he said. “It’s just awesome. I’m going to be proud wherever I go.”

Sam is also being honored by ESPN with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for “his courage and honesty that resonates beyond sports.”

Watch the interview below.

—  Dallasvoice

Jerry Jones: Dallas Cowboys would welcome a gay player

Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and arguably the most famous of the league’s 32 owners, told Wade Davis, a former defensive back who came out in 2012, that he and the Cowboys would welcome an openly gay player.

“When someone like him speaks out, the world changes,” Davis told USA TODAY Sports.

Davis spoke to NFL owners, coaches and general managers about sexual orientation in sports on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. Davis came out nine years after his last stint on an NFL roster ended and has already received positive feedback from meetings in New York with NFL officials, including commissioner Roger Goodell, over the past several months.

But there was a moment after his second presentation, this one to team owners on Tuesday morning, that confirmed to Davis just how much impact he had made in the quest to eliminate homophobia in the NFL.

But it wasn’t just Jones. It was coaches like John Fox of the Denver Broncos, who called Davis’ presentation the best he had ever seen at these annual meetings, and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who said it is up to NFL owners to spearhead this culture change.

Respect in the workplace has been the overarching theme at the league’s annual meetings, from the fallout of the Miami Dolphins locker room bullying scandal to discussions about use of racial slurs to preparations for the league’s first openly gay player in former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who came out last month and is preparing for the draft.

“I think the most important thing is that it is a matter of respect,” Blank told USA TODAY Sports. “How we live is more important than what we say about it. The guidance that we’re getting from the league is outstanding, and the attention that it is getting is outstanding. But is up to us to make sure it becomes a living part of our culture, with more sensitivity, more awareness of the impact of what we’re saying.”

Davis said he was approached by numerous coaches and other team executives to visit with teams. He hasn’t set up any presentations yet, but Davis and Troy Vincent, the former Pro Bowl defensive back who was named the NFL’s vice present of football operations, will work to set up a program for speaking directly to players.

“I might share more of my personal stories with players, but I’m going to let them know that hey, we don’t want to be treated any differently, we just want to be part of the NFL family, too,” said Davis, who played two years for NFL Europe and participated in three NFL training camps.

Fox’s Broncos team could be among those Davis visits this year, though Fox won’t wait to share what he learned in Orlando once he returns to Denver.

“You need diversification in everything — even sexual orientation. It has to be in the conversation,” Fox said. “I think it was very profound. It was definitely eye-opening for me.”

—  Steve Ramos

Lobbyist drafts bill to ban gays from NFL

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Jack Burkman

Washington lobbyist Jack Burkman on Monday said he is preparing legislation that would ban gay athletes from joining the National Football League, The Hill reported.

Burkman in a statement said he has garnered political support for the bill, though his statement didn’t mention any specific lawmakers who are behind it.

”We are losing our decency as a nation,” Burkman said in a statement. “Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

Burkman said he came up with the idea after college football star Michael Sam publicly revealed he is gay a few weeks ago. If drafted, Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Jason Collins on Sunday became the first openly gay athlete to play for a major men’s professional sports team when he suited up for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets against the Los Angeles Lakers.

A number of Democratic lawmakers voiced their support of Sam after he revealed his sexual orientation in an interview with ESPN, and first lady Michelle Obama hailed him as an “inspiration.”

Burkman was not available to speak with The Hill, but in his statement, he urged Congress to act.

“If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it,” Burkman said.

Burkman serves as founder and president of his own lobbying firm, Burkman Associates. He has also worked as of counsel at law firm Holland & Knight. In the 1990s, he served as counsel to then-Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.).

Burkman’s firm, JM Burkman & Associates, signed 70 new clients last year, the most of any K Street firm, a recent review by The Hill found.

The four-lobbyist firm specializes in helping companies secure contracts with the federal government.

—  Steve Ramos