Only moments ago, in a strong bi-partisan vote of 78 to 22, the Senate passed a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  This reauthorization bill, championed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID), explicitly includes the LGBT community in VAWA’s domestic violence programs.  Last week, during debate on the bill, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have re-written the bill and excluded protections for LGBT victims in a vote of 34 to 65.

A similar bill cleared the Senate last year.  Unfortunately, the House of Representative passed a narrow, partisan version of the bill that did not include protections for LGBT victims and other vulnerable communities. The two chambers were unable to negotiate a compromise before the legislative session expired.

The VAWA reauthorization bill passed by the Senate strengthens essential services for LGBT victims of domestic violence in three key ways. First, the bill ensures that all programs or activities receiving funding from VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Second, it explicitly includes the LGBT community in the largest VAWA grant program, the “STOP Grant Program,” which provides funding to care providers who collaborate with prosecution and law enforcement officials to address domestic violence. Finally, the bill establishes a grant program specifically aimed at providing services and outreach to underserved populations, including those who face obstacles to care based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Just last week, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) stated that passing a VAWA reauthorization bill is a “priority” for Republicans, but the Republicans have not introduced a VAWA reauthorization bill this legislative session.  HRC urges the House leadership to act quickly to adopt a bipartisan, inclusive VAWA like the Senate-passed bill.

Filed under: Federal Advocacy

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