Saturday, March 9, 2013

Even More Religious Right Voices Angry Over VAWA

On March 7th, President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law. The new version of VAWA prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ persons seeking domestic violence and sexual assault services, and allows federal funds to be used for LGBTQ-related services for victims. As mentioned in a prior post, right-wing voices are disgusted that the full version of VAWA passed in the House and Senate. Even more Religious Right voices are condemning VAWA, specifically over its LGBTQ provisions.

First, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is unhappy about LGBTQ provisions contained in VAWA. In a March 6th press release, the bishop chairmen of four USCCB committees and one subcommittee issued a joint statement criticizing the LGBTQ-inclusive VAWA. While the bishops admitted that violence in any form is wrong, they condemned VAWA provisions related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
"All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union."
In other words, the statement disapproves of VAWA because it acknowledges the existence of LGBTQ people. Apparently, some voices in the Catholic Church would prefer that LGBTQ remain invisible, even if this means that they encounter barriers to services or a lack of LGBTQ-sensitive aid. This is unacceptable. Furthermore, what does "marriage redefinition" have to do with VAWA? Why is the USCCB trying to link VAWA with same-sex marriage? This seems like a cheap ploy to turn anti-LGBTQ activists against VAWA, which is tasteless in the extreme.

All victims of domestic violence and sexual assault deserve services. Period. VAWA's provisions against anti-LGBTQ discrimination are crucial to ensuring that more victims can get help. Furthermore, its attention to the LGBTQ population reminds service providers that they must be mindful of the needs of LGBTQ victims. If the USCCB is serious about condemning all forms of violence, it should be celebrating VAWA instead of using it to promote an anti-LGBTQ agenda.

The statement also laments the lack of language protecting "conscience rights" of faith-based service providers who serve trafficking victims. The USCCB is likely referring to the Department of Health and Human Services' rejection of its sex trafficking grant request in 2011, on the grounds that it would not provide reproductive health services such as abortion and contraception to trafficking victims.
"Conscience protections are needed in this legislation to ensure that these service providers are not required to violate their bona fide religious beliefs as a condition for serving the needy. Failure to have conscience protection for such service providers undermines a long-held value in our democracy -- religious liberty ... In the end, the victims of human trafficking are harmed because organizations such as the USCCB are unable to render services that reach them and serve their human needs."
No, victims of trafficking are harmed because some faith-based organizations such as the USCCB refuse to provide health services they need. If a sex trafficking victim is experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, or seeks to prevent an unwanted pregnancy through emergency contraception, her medical needs trump the bishops' "bona fide religious beliefs". Instead of reflecting on their services, the USCCB chooses instead to blame the Obama Administration and lash out at sound legislation.

Second, Charisma Magazine, which has diligently warned readers about the dangers of demon nookie, gender-bending ghosts, and gays, is criticizing VAWA as well. In a March 8th column, Jennifer Leclaire claims that President Obama "snuck the gay agenda" into VAWA. She accuses President Obama of "perverting the law" and doing everything possible "to force the minority view on the majority who stand for traditional values". Leclaire insists that the president "is proving that in his second term he will stop at nothing to push the gay agenda down our throats despite a family-friendly stance during his first presidential campaign." She urges readers to pray for the president, adding that "only God can help us push back the wickedness that's pushing against His kingdom on earth." (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

It disappoints me that efforts to assist LGBTQ victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are demonized as part of some ominous "gay agenda". Leclaire's commentary only serves to belittle the LGBTQ community, framing any attempt to acknowledge or help LGBTQ victims as "wickedness". The lack of empathy here is astounding.

The Religious Right response to VAWA reauthorization has been very revealing. For all the Religious Right's talk about "loving" LGBTQ persons, they are quick to condemn policies meant to help LGBTQ victims of violence.


  1. No, victims of trafficking are harmed because some faith-based organizations such as the USCCB refuse to provide health services they need.

    And this is why the right wing always wants religious groups rather than the state to be providing services to the needy. It creates more opportunities to inflict their crank taboos on people.

    1. Infidel753 -- A chilling realization. If I were in trouble and the only service providers I could turn to were right-wing religious groups whose help has strings attached, I'd be very nervous.


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