It’s not only good news for American women, but the recently renewed Violence Against Women Act (despite its unfortunate acronym – VAWA) is also good news for the LGBT community thanks to its new, more inclusive protections.
Last week, the house renewed the legislation to aid victims of domestic and sexual abuse. But the new version of the act also provides provisions for LGBT victims of domestic abuse. Last month, more than 1,300 women’s and human rights organizations urged support for the legislation among both Democrats and Republicans.
“Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse,” President Obama said in a statement. “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.”
A notable moment during the debate came from Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who revealed that she’s been a victim of domestic and sexual violence. “I pray that this body will do as the Senate has done and come together as one to protect all women from violence,” she said. “As I think about the LGBT victims who are not here, the native women who are not here, the immigrants who aren’t in this bill, I would say, as Sojourner Truth would say, ‘Ain’t they women?’”
While Democrats pushed for the inclusion, Republican support also helped pave the way for the bill by Thursday. “We’re pleased to see that the LGBT-inclusive bipartisan version of the Violence Against Women Act passed by the United States Senate has also passed in the House with bipartisan support, including the votes of 87 Republicans,” says Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo. “Codifying law to acknowledge the reality that gay and lesbians can be the unfortunate victims of domestic abuse just as their straight counterparts is an issue of basic fairness, and we applaud those Republicans in the House who demonstrated the importance of equal protection under the law with their votes today.”
The Act, first introduced in 1994, helps individuals who have been victims of domestic violence by providing funding for shelters, investigation and prosecution of violent crime, and increased education for the courts and law enforcement on how to address domestic violence. The newly reauthorized version includes vital LGBT-inclusive provisions to promote access to justice and resources for all victims without the threat of discrimination.
“The National LGBT Bar Association represents countless prosecutors, judges and advocates who have seen firsthand how domestic violence affects individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We are grateful that the Violence Against Women Act will now be a powerful tool to protect our community and ensure justice is served,” says D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association. “It is unfortunate, but we know that our community is not immune to domestic violence, and for too long LGBT people have faced discrimination when they sought help. More than 61 percent of LGBT survivors reported being turned away from domestic violence shelters, and 85 percent of service providers working with LGBT victims of violence have observed discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. With the passage of VAWA, we are hopeful that no survivor will ever again be further victimized by the system intended to help them recover.”