Today, on a 68-31 vote, the Senate acted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act -- a bill that has, in the past, been enacted with strong bipartisan support but has been subject to significant Republican opposition in this Congress. Among the provisions that have drawn criticism are those that specifically provide for inclusion of LGBT people and issues in the enactment of the bill.
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said in a statement, "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. 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."
HRC pointed to three provisions of the legislation as providing specific support for LGBT people:
- 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.
- The bill 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.
- Te 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.
In a statement, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said, "To be the target of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking is terrifying and traumatic. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not immune from this violence, and their distress should not be further heightened by a lack of proper response from service providers or law enforcement.
"Reauthorization of this inclusive Violence Against Women Act will go a long way toward ensuring everyone has access to life-sustaining resources. Lives are literally on the line, and we thank the Senate for passing this critical legislation. We urge the House to swiftly follow suit."