Ted Yoho: You can't judge bill by its title

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 2:47 p.m.

They say you should never judge a book by its cover. One of the things I've learned in my first two months in Congress is that you can't judge a bill by its title, either.

I've heard from quite a few folks in Gainesville who have some questions about my vote against the Violence Against Women Act. This was one example of a bill with a striking title, great intentions, but very troublesome policy.

No one — no man, woman, Republican, or Democrat, should be OK with violence. Our Constitution protects every American with the principle of equal justice under the law. Those who commit violence against women or anyone else should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

This particular piece of legislation, with all of its good intentions, undermined that very principle. By trying to define a specific group of victims, it undercuts the severity of punishment for those who have broken the law by committing violence in the first place regardless of the identity of the victim. It also clouds the very important principle of judicial independence.

For example, the Violence Against Women Act would allow rulings in cases from tribal judges, who are not appointed to the court system by the president as Article II of the Constitution sets up our courts. We have a system of checks and balances for an important reason. Our system is out of balance, and this legislation would add to that imbalance.

If we are to truly bring justice to victims and those who commit violence, we must do justice to the Constitution first.

The first line of defense for any victim of violence is local law enforcement, not an act of Congress. I am glad that the Violence Against Women Act has sparked so much discussion. Talking about domestic violence brings it out of the darkness, where it has thrived for too long, and into the open, where it can be recognized and stopped.

I am committed to making sure that local law enforcement, charitable organizations and any citizen who cares about violence prevention is engaged in this discussion. I want to make sure local law enforcement agencies and organizations dedicated to this cause get the funding they need through Constitutional means, working up through the state level before the federal government gets more deeply involved.

That is why I'm looking forward to visiting with was many women's shelters and violence prevention groups as possible when I'm home in Florida. Together, I know we can find ways to bring an end to domestic violence right here at home.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho is a Republican serving his first term in Congress. A licensed large-animal veterinarian, Yoho lives in Gainesville.

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