Congress approves LGBT-inclusive VAWA, Obama vows to sign

Posted by Justin Snow
February 28, 2013 4:13 PM |

VAWA vote.jpg

An LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act swept through the House of Representatives today, winning a bipartisan majority in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Voting 286-138 Thursday, the House approved the Senate version of VAWA, which includes protections for LGBT victims of abuse. First signed into law in 1994, the vote comes after Congress failed to reauthorize VAWA in October 2011 over objections from Republicans to the LGBT provision, as well as provisions for Native Americans and immigrants.

Although House Republicans attempted to pass their own version of VAWA today without those contested provisions, the House rejected that bill 166-257 and passed the Senate version of the bill, which that chamber approved earlier this month 78-22.

The Senate version of VAWA authorizing $659 million over five years for various programs that help prevent domestic violence and extending protections to LGBT people received unanimous Democratic support and 87 Republican votes. Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), who is an immigrant and LGBT ally, presided over the vote in the House.

"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," President Barack Obama said in a statement following the vote. "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."

Advocates praised today’s vote as a win for LGBT people, who face domestic violence at the same levels as straight people. 

"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 Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement. "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."

Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory Angelo also applauded the Republicans who voted in favor of the LGBT-inclusive bill and "demonstrated the importance of equal protection under the law with their votes today."

"A survivor's distress should not be compounded by a lack of proper response from service providers or law enforcement,” added Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “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."

[Image: House approves VAWA (Screenshot courtesy of C-SPAN).]

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