Schwarzenegger Should Veto AB 2051

By Michael McCormick and Glenn Sacks

The California Assembly just passed a domestic violence bill which will perpetuate the state’s harmful policy of excluding men and their children from receiving state-funded domestic violence services. Under AB 2051, only "battered women" are eligible for the shelters, hotel vouchers, counseling and legal services the state provides victims of domestic violence. Governor Schwarzenegger should veto this misguided legislation.

Because AB 2051 is based on the discredited premise that men are rarely the victims of intimate partner abuse, the bill has aroused considerable opposition from domestic violence researchers and treatment providers. In May more than 50 experts signed an opposition letter to the Legislature. They wrote:

"The data is without question-domestic violence affects both men and women. The politicization of this issue must stop and services must be provided to all children and their parent victims."

The signatories include many of the most prominent authorities in the family violence field. As Bay Area court-certified batterer intervention provider John Hamel, LCSW, explained in his testimony against the bill, research shows that a third of domestic violence-related injuries are incurred by heterosexual males.

The widely-reported Maegan Black case provides an example of the harm done to California’s children by current state policies. Black, a young Sacramento-area woman, spent a nightmarish childhood trapped in a home with a violent, mentally-ill mother. Black’s father David was partially disabled, and thus financially dependent on his wife. David and Maegan attempted on numerous occasions to get help from domestic violence service providers, and were consistently rebuffed. Last fall Black, now 22, filed a lawsuit against the state.

Current policies often trap abused fathers like David and their children. They can’t leave their wives because this would leave their children unprotected in the hands of an abuser. If they take their children, they can be arrested for kidnapping. Moreover, they would probably lose custody of their children in the divorce anyway, again leaving their children in harm’s way.

AB 2051 was originally introduced for the very legitimate purpose of addressing domestic violence within the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities. Lobbyist Michael Robinson of the California Alliance for Families and Children, which opposes the bill, explains:

"The bill’s original language was gender-neutral, and the words ’female,’ ’woman’ and ’women’ were stricken from the current state statute and replaced with the gender neutral term ’victim.’ However, because of pressure from misguided women’s groups, the author later amended the bill back to gender-specific–and discriminatory–language."

Under the version of AB 2051 passed by the Legislature, even gay males–originally one of the bill’s primary intended beneficiaries–may be excluded from state DV services. By vetoing the bill, Schwarzenegger can make it clear that it’s time to end the state’s discriminatory policies and bring them into line with research and expert opinion. A veto will return the issue to the Legislature next year, so that a solution can be crafted to serve the needs of all victims of domestic violence and their children.

  • Orange County Register