The Senate approved an LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Tuesday afternoon, sending the bill to the House of Representatives where it faces an uncertain future.
Voting 78-22, the Senate approved the bill, which authorizes $659 million over five years for various programs that help prevent domestic violence. Among the bill's more contentious provisions is one that offers expanded protections to LGBT people.
The House failed to reauthorize VAWA last year for the first time in nearly two decades due to Republican objections over the LGBT provision, as well as provisions regarding Native Americans and undocumented immigrants. Although the bill approved by the Senate today dropped the provision for immigrants, it is still expected to face a bitter battle in the Republican-controlled House.
"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 should not also fear being turned away from life-saving services because of who they are," Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a statement.
In a first-of-its-kind study released last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that gays and lesbians experience intimate partner violence and sexual violence at levels equal to straight people.
Added National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling, "While NCTE applauds the Senate for taking this important step, survivors of violence cannot wait any longer, including the almost 20 percent of transgender people who've reported facing domestic abuse."
Although 17 House Republicans signed a letter Monday night to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) urging passage of VAWA, accordding to The Huffington Post, it remains to be seen if the House will attempt to remove the LGBT and Native American provisions, as was done last year.
Advocates and the president, however, are demanding swift action.
"The bill passed by the Senate will help reduce homicides that occur from domestic violence, improve the criminal justice response to rape and sexual assault, address the high rates of dating violence experienced by young women, and provide justice to the most vulnerable among us,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released after the bill’s passage. "It's now time for the House to follow suit and send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law."
[Photo: U.S. Capitol (Credit: Justin Snow/Metro Weekly).]