The senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which now includes language aimed at protecting LGBT victims of domestic violence and new assurances for Native American and Immigrant women.
The bill, co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy and other Democrats, and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), passed on a 78-22 vote. Many are praising legislators for their robust show of bipartisan action, including President Obama.
“This important step shows what we can do when we come together across party lines to take up a just cause,” Obama said. “The bill passed by the Senate will help reduce homicides that occur from domestic violence, improve the criminal justice response to rape and sexual assault, address the high rates of dating violence experienced by young women, and provide justice to the most vulnerable among us.”
The VAWA provides states and local authorities with grants that effectively serve millions of women across the United States. According to one study, these grants resulted in a 67% decrease in domestic violence between 1993 and 2010. Now LGBT individuals could be included in the bill’s success thanks to three key provision revisions:
Mandates that every organization and activity receiving funding under the VAWA provide services regardless of an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity
Explicitly includes LGBT individuals in the STOP grant program, the VAWA largest grant program which provides funding to care providers who collaborate with persecution and law enforcement official to address domestic violence
Establishes grant programs specifically aimed at helping underserved communities, including the LGBT community
Alli McCracken, National Organizer at Code Pink in Washington D.C., told 429Magazine that, “You can’t have an actor that denounces violence against women without including all women. That includes women who are a part of the LGBTQ community, with a particular emphasis on the Q.”
Whether or not the LGBT-inclusive version of the VAWA will pass the Republican-controlled house is unclear. Last year the house passed its own version that rejected identical protections for LGBT individuals as proposed in the senate. “Republicans are against [the VAWA]because of the provisions for Native Americans and LGBT people. It’s shocking how blatant representatives are against minorities,” McCracken said.
However, the trend this year has demonstrated positive signs of support across the aisle. 17 Republicans sent a letter to Speaker of the House, John Boehner, stating the VAWA “program saves lives, and we must allow states and communities to build upon the successes of current VAWA programs so that we can help even more people.” House Majority leader Eric Cantor has also emphasized that passing the VAMA is a “priority” for Republican lawmakers.
LGBT individuals face domestic violence rates at about the same levels as heterosexual women (roughly 25%), but are less likely to receive help. Passing the LGBT-inclusive version of the VAWA would ensure that these individuals have access to the resources they need and deserve.