FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The U.S. Senate voted Monday to consider reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. The revamped bill enhances protections for American Indians, illegal immigrants, and gays and lesbians.
The Senate approved a similar version of the bill last year but it failed to pass the House. The stumbling block was granting tribal courts jurisdiction to handle cases involving non-native suspects. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is a co-sponsor of the bill. Before he and his colleagues voted, he pointed out that one in four women has been a victim of severe domestic violence. Leahy recalled going to crime scenes as a prosecutor.
"During that time no police officer ever said, 'is this victim gay or straight?'" Leahy said. "'Is this victim an immigrant or a Native American?' They said as I’ve said so many times before, a victim is a victim is a victim."
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley expressed concerns about the constitutionality of allowing tribal courts expanded jurisdiction.
The Senate will discuss the bill later this week. The House is considering a similar bill.