In an email blast sent out in the wee hours Wednesday, the religious-right Family Research Council yet again voiced its opposition to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark piece of legislation that has, since it was first passed in 1994, improved the country’s criminal justice response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This time, the organization’s executive vice president, retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, laughably claimed that the reauthorization would perpetuate abuse of women rather than prevent it—apparently, in his estimation, because language included in the reauthorization would extend protections to trans women.
The U.S. House of Representatives moved to reauthorize VAWA in a bipartisan vote last week, sending the bill to the Senate. The law was allowed to expire twice—in 2018 and then again 2019—the latterwhen the GOP-controlled Senate declined to take it up for a vote, following lobbying from such groups as the National Rifle Association to oppose a measure in the legislation that would have prevented convicted domestic abusers from buying firearms. Previously, the legislation had been renewed in 1994, 2000, 2005, and 2013 with bipartisan support.
In the FRC Action email, Boykin asked for donations and called on recipients to contact senators to oppose reauthorization of VAWA, claiming, “By mandating harmful gender identity ideology”—that is, the inclusion of trans women—as well as “maintaining Planned Parenthood’s ability to obtain VAWA grants, and inefficiently diverting certain grant funds to be used for only limited purposes and limited pools of victims, H.R. 1620 would harm the very women VAWA should be protecting.”
“This is where the real ‘war on women’ is being fought,” Boykin said. “This VAWA reauthorization would further traumatize and reduce resources for battered women and put women who are incarcerated at risk of abuse. It would not help stop violence against women and should be opposed.”
The email borrowed language from a March 1 FRC document that expanded on what was meant by the phrase “harmful gender identity ideology.” The document stated that abused women “should not be forced to share private spaces with biological men, sleep next to biological men, or disrobe in front of biological men—requiring women who were abused by biological men to do such things compounds their trauma.”
Both the transphobic nature of his argument and FRC’s opposition to the bill are in keeping with the organization’s past actions. Along with other religious-right and hard-right organizations, the FRC has mobilized against the Equality Act, which includes language that prohibits discrimination of LGBTQ individuals, and pushed anti-trans legislation in state capitols across the country.
And like other religious-right and right-wing organizations, FRC has routinely voiced objections to VAWA. In 2013, the FRC attacked new VAWA provisions to protect immigrants, Native Americans, and immigrants, boldly declaring that “the real abuse” of VAWA was that of “taxpayer dollars,” as reported by Right Wing Watch’s Miranda Blue at the time.
In addition to trying to exclude trans women from needed services, the fear-based narrative around trans women serves as yet another avenue for hard right and religious-right groups to attack VAWA. In this regard, FRC is hardly alone.
Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, an outfit led by far-right operative and Stop the Steal organizer Ed Martin, has railed against VAWA, claiming in a March 15 press release that late anti-feminist organizer Phyllis Schlafly was right in her assessment of VAWA as “simply a mechanism to institutionalize feminist leaders and policies.” Martin, too, attacked trans women, stating, “Shelters and organizations that protect women would be forced to either close or admit biological men right alongside battered women into the same living and bathing quarters.” And he similarly attacked Planned Parenthood, which can apply for VAWA grants to prevent sexual assault, accusing the organization of providing a “cover up for sexual abusers and human traffickers.”
But Martin appears to take issue with the legislation for its protection of cis women as well. In 2019, Right Wing Watch reported comments by Martin in which he bemoaned the legislation for ensuring that abusers face consequences for their actions. “Yet the Violence Against Women Act trained workers to separate domestic couples as often as possible and to file a complaint against men which often cause them to lose their jobs and their employability,” Martin said.
The notoriously anti-feminist Concerned Women for America also opposes VAWA, urging House members earlier this month to vote against the reauthorization legislation, claiming the inclusion of trans women would elevate “their rights above those of women seeking refuge from violence” and put cis women in danger.
These groups’ opposition to VAWA is longstanding and their commitment to “protecting women” questionable at best. As Right Wing Watch’s Josh Glasstetter reported in 2012, FRC, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, and other religious-right organizations partnered with “a convicted wife-beater and a group tied to a mail order bride firm” to lobby Congress to oppose reauthorization of VAWA.