WASHINGTON The U.S. House passed the Senate-approved version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that includes important protections for LGBT people Feb. 28.
Last May the House passed their own non-LGBT inclusive version in a highly partisan vote but that bill died at the end of the last Congress.
Today's victory marks a rare occasion when Republicans and Democrats came together to ensure explicit protections in the federal code for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." It is also the first time that any federal non-discrimination provisions include the LGBT community.
"It's tremendous that both Republican and Democratic leaders came together to ensure that all domestic violence victims, including those who are LGBT, will not face discrimination when they seek services," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "There need not be a partisan divide on LGBT issues and this vote shows that we can come together to find common sense solutions to issues facing our community."
The bill was passed 78 to 22 in a bipartisan Senate vote and today's 286 to 138 vote included 87 Republicans.
Statement from the President on the House Passage of the Violence Against Women Act:
"I was pleased to see the House of Representatives come together and vote to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse. Today's vote will go even further by continuing to reduce domestic violence, improving how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community. The bill also reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, providing critical support for both international and domestic victims of trafficking and helping ensure traffickers are brought to justice. I want to thank leaders from both parties especially Leader Pelosi, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Senator Leahy for everything they've done to make this happen. Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk."
The bill prohibits any program or activity funded by the bill from discriminating against a victim based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It also explicitly includes LGBT victims in two key VAWA grant programs. HRC lobbied to include the language in the Senate bill and urged House members to pass the inclusive language as well.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauded the vote on the bill, which also includes enhanced protections for Native American and immigrant survivors, and campus safety provisions.
The 1994 federal law provides funds to enhance investigation and prosecution of violent crimes such as domestic violence and sexual assault, and it bolsters victim services programs.
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: "This is a huge victory for the millions of people across the country affected by domestic and sexual violence, including LGBT people. To be the target of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking whether perpetrated by a stranger or an intimate partner is terrifying and traumatic. A survivor's distress should not be compounded by a lack of proper response from service providers or law enforcement. Imagine being assaulted, scared and in pain and then also being turned away from the care you need simply because of who you are or who you love. This legislation will better ensure that does not happen. We thank Congress and look forward to President Obama's signature on this critically important bill. This law will literally help save lives."
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) commended the U.S. House of Representatives for passage of the bi-partisan Senate Bill S.47, which re-authorizes a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by a vote of 286 to 138.
This historic legislative victory for LGBTQ communities comes as a result of efforts on the part of NCAVP members and their national partners, including the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBT Bar Association, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force among others.
"Today's House vote explicitly includes LGBTQ survivors of violence in VAWA, our nation's response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking," said Sharon Stapel, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. "This legislation ends the silence and isolation that so many LGBTQ survivors have felt, makes LGBT survivors visible and central to our national response to domestic and sexual violence, and says to all survivors of violence: you matter and there is support for you."
As a recent Centers for Disease Control report found, intimate partner violence and sexual violence is a pervasive problem in LGBTQH and non-LGBTQH communities, with members of the LGBTQH communities experiencing sexual and domestic violence at the same or higher rates as non-LGBTQH people. NCAVP's reports about LGBTQ intimate partner violence, published for more than 15 years, demonstrate the depth and breadth of the barriers that LGBTQ survivors of violence face.
"In a landmark shift in national politics, the House today, for the first time in history, passed sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination protections. Today's passage of VAWA means that LGBTQ survivors of violence will have greater access to life saving services, advocacy and support," said Terra Slavin, Lead Staff Attorney, LA Gay & Lesbian Center. "In each and every state in the country, sexual orientation and gender identity will now no longer be a legitimate basis for denial of VAWA victim services."
In Chicago, Center on Halsted applauded the passage. "We celebrate this historic vote and legislative accomplishment. We thank Congress and the President for recognizing the specific needs of LGBTQ victims and survivors of domestic, sexual, and dating violence and stalking. We thank them for demanding that more victim services providers become equipped to assist our community," said Modesto Tico Valle, CEO, Center on Halsted.
Center on Halsted provides safety planning, crisis support, and referrals with a 24-hour LGBTQ Violence Crisis Line, 773-871-CARE (2273).