Advocates push gender-neutral domestic-violence laws

Started by blackmanxxx, Feb 03, 2007, 01:36 PM

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Advocates push gender-neutral domestic-violence laws
Court case, pending legislation, moving forward
MALCOLM MACLACHLAN | CAPITOL WEEKLY Men's advocates say they have
moved closer to their goal of
gender-neutral domestic-violence
laws in the past week.
First, a group of men who say they were
battered and threatened by their wives got
their day in court this past Friday. The four
plaintiffs in Woods v. California say they
were denied their constitutionally mandated
equal protection as they sought shelter
services and police safeguards.
Meanwhile, lobbyist Mike Robinson said
that he has found
multiple sponsors
to draft legislation
that would amend
California's domestic-
violence laws
to apply to "victims,"
rather than
only to women. He
said the language
has been approved
by the Legislative
Counsel. There are
several Republicans
who have said they
are willing to sponsor
the legislation,
Robinson said, but
he is trying to line
up a Democratic
The Woods case
was heard by Sacramento Superior Court
Judge Lloyd Connelly. It does not seek any
damages, but instead is meant to force gender-
neutral law enforcement and services
across key sections of the state's government,
health and penal codes.
While the lawsuit has a wider focus
than his legislation--and he is not a plaintiff--
Robinson said that in many ways they
are working toward the same goal. He said
that Connelly's initial ruling and statements
have shown that he is likely to agree
that it is unconstitutional that California's
domestic-violence statutes can only apply
to women.
"The message is real clear that the statute
is going to get struck down," Robinson
said. "It would be in the Legislature's best
interests to reform it themselves."
After the two-hour hearing, Connelly
gave both sides until March 2 to reply to
several issues that came up. He is asking
the plaintiffs' attorney, Marc Angelucci, to
submit a supplemental brief addressing the
plaintiffs' legal right to bring suit, as well as
answer some other technical questions.
Both Robinson and the Woods plaintiffs
said that they are
not trying to cut off
services to battered
women. The issue,
they claim, is that
there are next to no
shelter services for
battered men.
Plaintiff Ray
Blumhorst said that
his case began several
years ago when
his marriage was
falling apart. His
wife hit him with a
bookstand when he
wasn't looking, he
said, putting him
on crutches and
leaving him with a
limp. Days
later, when the police got involved, he was
the one who got arrested, even though he'd
never lifted a finger against his wife.
The reason, he said, is that as a 6'1", 210-
pound veteran, he looked far more intimidating
than his average-sized wife. Sure he
might have won a wrestling match against
her, he said, but she was the one initiating
violence--and increasingly using weapons.
"We're not saying there aren't a lot big,
bad, abusive men out there," Blumhorst
said. "But there has been a very biased picture
in the media and the law."
Blumhorst said he
sought shelter services
for his own safety, but
repeatedly was denied
by shelters that received
state funds but serve only
women. He later sought
services again, this time
in order to prove his
point for a legal case;
that case was thrown out
in March of 2005 by the
Second District Court of
Appeal, which ruled he
lacked the legal standing
to file a suit.
In October of 2005,
he joined with three
other plaintiffs who
claim similar experiences. Angelucci said
the four are merely seeking equal protection
under the law--and this does not
necessarily mean that women's shelters be
opened wholesale to men.
The problem, he said, is that there is
a severe disparity in the services. There
are 98 women's shelters receiving state
money, while there are only three shelters
in California that accept men. One provides
only hotel referrals; a men-only shelter in
Yreka accepts no state funds.
"Men travel hundreds of miles because
no one else will take them," Angelucci said.
Underneath this legal issue is a festering
mistrust between men's and women's
advocates. Robinson and allies such as
therapist John Hamel say that men have
been involved in the helping the women's
shelter movement since it's beginnings in
Britain the early 1970s, but that it has been
"hijacked by feminists" and turned "ideological."
This mistrust goes both ways.
"There is a definite sense that people
are organizing to take away funding for
violence against women's services the same
way affirmative action has been attacked,"
said Jovida Guevara-Ross, executive
director of Community United Against
Violence. She said that arguments that
domestic-violence rates are nearly the same
between men and women ignore several
important factions, including the greater
physical harm usually inflicted on women.
CUAV works on domestic-violence
issues in the gay and lesbian community.
Many people have argued that the increasing
prevalence of shelter services for gay
men has also provided resources for straight
In fact, the National Coalition of Free
Men, a group Blumhorst is involved in,
tried to use a Rebecca Cohn bill on domestic
violence in the gay and lesbian community
to get the gender parity they seek. AB
2051 imposes a fee on the state's domesticpartner
registry to fund services for battered
gay and lesbians, similar to the same way
that women's shelters get funding from
state marriage licenses. Geoff Kors, executive
director of Equality California, said that
the Coalition's efforts failed because they
went against the intent of the bill and tried
to tap the wrong source of funding.
Contact Malcolm Maclachlan at
[email protected]
thing we do," said Chumash spokesperson
Frances Snyder. "These folks are very wealthy
and have a lot of time on their hands."
The Chumash were one of 61 tribes that
negotiated gaming compacts with the state
in 1999, and is currently capped at 2,000
slot machines at its Chumash Casino Resort
in the town of Santa Ynez.
Last year, the governor negotiated new
compacts with five of those gaming tribes:
the Agua Caliente, the Morongo, Sycuan,
Pechanga and San Manuel groups. The
agreements, which were announced in the
closing days of last year's legislative session,
stalled in the Assembly, would add as many
as 20,000 slot machines over time--if they
eventually are ratified by the Legislature.
If the new deals are approved, that likely
would encourage more renegotiations--like
the one the Chumash are asking for.
The governor faces a tough task convincing
the Legislature to sign off on the compacts,
but that hasn't stopped other tribal
groups from coming forward with their own
What has the Santa Barbara neighbors
of the Chumash so agitated is a copy of the
minutes from a tribal meeting in September,
which have been circulating among gaming
According to the minutes, tribal chairman
Vincent Armenta said the tribe is asking
for 5,000 more machines and a 10-year
extension on their compact. In the document,
Armenta says the tribe had "received
several letters of support for this re-negotiation
and will be sending our term sheet back
to the governor in the next couple of weeks."
But Armenta warned, "We have met with
the governor's office but there has been no
progress yet."
After POLO got its hands on this information,
the group asked the members of the
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors
to pass a resolution placing a moratorium
on more gaming in the county. And it
began demanding answers about what it
calls the "ongoing negotiations" between the
governor and the Chumash officials. "The
governor's office has been absolutely stonewalling
us," said Herthel
But it's not clear that the "ongoing negotiations"
have been all that ongoing.
"Generally we can't comment on the status
of negotiations, or even confirm whether
they are happening," said governor's press
aide Darrell Ng.
Chumash representatives wouldn't confirm
the substance of the meeting minutes,
but sent a statement from Chairman
"In 2006, we were initially part of the
group that had informal discussions with
the Governor's office. At that time, we
asked for the same thing that other tribes
asked for. However, we dropped out of that
group and are not in discussions with the
Governor's office."
Frank Molina, a former chief of staff to
Assembly member Simon Salinas--now
working for the Santa Ynez band--confirmed
that the meeting did take place in
the fall. And the tribe got a letter back from
the governor's office in December. "But it
was basically, 'We can't do anything this
year. We'll get back to you when we can,'"
Molina said.
The tribe currently is involved in a
lawsuit with POLO over its purchase of 6.9
acres of land near its current casino. The
tribe says it wants to build a museum and
public park on the property--not expand its
casino operations onto the parcel.
A little more information might help
ease the minds of local government officials.
When contacted by the Capitol Weekly,
Santa Barbara County Supervisor (and
former state Assembly member) Brooks
Firestone said that all he knew was that
"there are strong rumors of a significant
expansion" of Chumash gaming.
"The whole direction has been toward
community-tribal agreements," said
Firestone, adding that he's concerned about
any deal that moves forward without community
"Nothing happens without an agreement
locally, that was my impression."
The governor says the five pending
compacts would bring over $500 million
into state coffers. That number is dubious
according to the Legislative Analyst's
Last year, the compacts died in the
Assembly in part because Democrats wanted
more labor protections included. The
compacts have also worried some who say
that the state doesn't have the resources to
give adequate oversight to the expanding
gaming industry.
Of course, simply asking for help from
the governor's office is a far cry from having
a deal.
But the anxiety surrounding even very
preliminary negotiations provides a good
indication of just how rancorous the debate
over any new compacts will be.
Contact Cosmo Garvin at
[email protected]
continued from page A1
Plaintiff Ray Blumhorst said he was assualted by his now-former
wife--then denied police protection and shelter services.
"The message is real
clear that the statute is
going to get struck down.
It would be in the
Legislature's best interests
to reform it themselves."
--Mike Robinson


Someday,  we shall  triumph.

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