Why naming a law after a victim is a bad idea — Violence Agains Women Act, Edition

April 26th, 2012

Today the Senate reauthorizedthe Violence Against Women, but not after another front in the so-called “War on Women.” One of the difficulties of naming any law after a victim is that opposing it becomes the same thing as opposing the victim. Opposing the Violence Against Women Act means that you are in favor of Violence Against Women. It gets so emotional! Al Franken started to cry on the Senate Floor. I mean, this headline from Think Progress, with an ominous-looking picture of Chuck Grassley, says it all–“GOP Tries To Water Down Violence Against Women Act, Expresses Willingness To Tolerate Some Domestic Abuse.” And we are reminded that “All 31 votes against Violence Against Women Act came from Republican men.”

But, this massive law had a lot of provisions that does not deal with violence against women (though I am not judging the value of these other provisions). For example, Eugene Volokh looks at one provision that would outlaw anonymous online speech that is “intended to harass” the person being criticized–it is not limited to women, or violence.

Of course, now the debate moves on to the House of Representatives, or as Think Progress dubs it, “The politicization of domestic violence isn’t over yet, though– the bill now moves onto the House of Representatives, where it’s already been emotionally debated.”

When a law is named after a victim, there can be no meaningful debate over its validity–even when the law is expanded to do more stuff than protect the victim in question.