Women’s History Month was nicely commemorated on Monday when Sen. Claire McCaskill’s bill to force changes in the military’s sexual assault policies unanimously passed in the Senate. In a vote of 97-0, the Senate clearly set aside all the bickering and procedural blather that had delayed the issue being brought to the floor.
What this essentially means is that victims of a sexual assault can now decide whether they want their cases prosecuted in a civilian or a military court. They can also choose a confidential process to challenge any discharge or separation from the service that comes as a result of the case.
During an interview with reporters, McCaskill was effusive, stating, “We have now got a laundry list of things that are going to protect victims, who are going to bring perpetrators to justice, who are going to hold commanders accountable.”
The bill now heads to the House, but it may not get a hearing until later this year when the representatives consider a new defense authorization bill.
It was unfortunate that New York’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s measure to remove the chain of command from prosecutions was derailed. She fell five votes short of the 60 needed, and one of the 10 Democrats who voted against the bill was McCaskill. Even Michigan’s Carl Levin, a well-known hawk on defense, opposed the bill.
President Barack Obama’s views on sexual assault and harassment were expressed earlier this year, and he has promised to take action if the Pentagon continues to drag its feet on improving things.
And while the president may have flubbed his nod to Aretha Franklin by citing her signature song as “R-S-P-E-C-T,” he was more than graceful in acknowledging the gathering of women soul singers at the White House last week. Among those in the fabulous lineup were Patti LaBelle, Jill Scott, Janelle Monáe, Melissa Etheridge, Tessanne Chin and, the youngest of the group, Ariana Grande.
“As someone who always shares this house with brilliant, creative, talented, somewhat stubborn women, I think Women’s History Month is the perfect time to honor a few more: the women of soul,” the president told the audience.