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April 26, 2012

Category: Federal Advocacy, Laws and Legislation

Senate Reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act in Bipartisan Vote

VAWA contains critical protections for LGBT victims of domestic abuse

04/26/2012

Washington – The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – is applauding the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and is urging the House of Representatives to follow suit and ensure that all victims of domestic violence receive the care and support they deserve. The Senate passed S. 1925 this evening by a 68-31 vote, after defeating an amendment that would have re-written the bill and excluded protections for LGBT victims by a vote of 36-63.

“Senators from both sides of the aisle came together today to ensure that all domestic violence victims, including those who are LGBT, will not face discrimination when they seek victim services,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We applaud the Senate for recognizing the importance of this bill and taking bipartisan action, and we call on the House to do the same.”

Studies indicate that LGBT people experience domestic violence at roughly the same rate as the general population.  Unfortunately, many LGBT victims have not been receiving the services they need because service providers and law enforcement are not engaged in outreach to the LGBT community, lack the cultural competency to effectively work with LGBT victims or do not have access to funding for appropriate services.

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.

The version of VAWA passed by the Senate is a comprehensive, cost-effective strategy for combatting domestic violence that was drafted based on input from more than 2,000 law enforcement, court, prosecution, legal services, and victim services professionals from across the country.  

The House has not yet acted on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, but could move on it as early as next month.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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