With the women of the House Democratic Caucus wearing white — the traditional color of women’s suffrage — the chamber passed two bills aimed at promoting and protecting women’s rights.
One, which passed 244-172, would reauthorize and expand the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in 2019. The other removes a deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. It passed 222-204.
In both votes, Colorado’s House delegation split along party lines. Democrats supported the measures, Republicans opposed them.
The votes took place against the backdrop of a mass shooting that killed eight people, including seven women working at spas in the Atlanta area.
First passed in 1994, the VAWA strengthened laws around domestic and sexual violence against women. The Senate failed to authorize the bill last congress over disagreements on LGBTQ and firearms provisions.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in domestic violence during the pandemic. We have to do more to protect those who need our help,” tweeted Rep. Diana DeGette.
The latest bill expands protections “for the most vulnerable, including immigrant, LGBTQ and Native American women,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “It strengthens services for victims and survivors, empowers law enforcement to protect their communities, helps stop abusers and stalkers from obtaining firearms and expands protections for victims’ and survivors’ financial security."
But it’s this type of expansion that has drawn Republican opposition.
Republican Rep. Ken Buck voted no on the current bill. He countered Democrats have politicized the issue, by including race and gender into a bill about domestic violence and sexual abuse. Instead, he supported an amendment that would have reverted back to the older version of the legislation.
“I am proud to support a clean reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which stands up for sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors by ensuring programs to help survivors continue,” Buck said in a statement. “Instead, Democrats passed a radical version of VAWA that is stuffed with controversial policies to fuel their own liberal interests.”
The older version of the bill barrs people convicted of domestic violence or abuse from purchasing and owning a gun if they’re married to, live with, or have a child with their victim. The current version of the bill extends this idea to stalkers and dating partners.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter supported the bill, tweeting it is “lifesaving legislation that maintains the safety, resources, and protections critical to survivors. Let’s continue to support these essential programs and support all survivors by reauthorizing.”
Congress has continued to fund the programs under the VAWA, despite its lapse.
Supporters of the ERA bill said there should be no expiration in equality. The ERA would amend the constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sex. It passed Congress in 1972, but hasn’t gathered the support of enough states to be ratified.
“Nearly 100 years ago, the Equal Rights Amendment was drafted, stating that ‘equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged.’ Today, the House will vote to enshrine the ERA in our constitution and ensure equality for all women,” tweeted Rep. Joe Neguse.
But GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted her opposition to the bill saying it would enshrine abortion rights: “This expired amendment should be thrown out like rotten milk.”
Both bills face uncertain futures in the Senate.