VAWA Passes!

In a comfortable vote of 286-138, the House of Representatives passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act today, which the Senate had already approved. President Obama is now expected to sign it into law.

The latest version of VAWA contains much-needed additional protections for LGBT persons, Native Americans and immigrants. A Republican-sponsored bill that would have removed protections for LGBT and Native communities was defeated 166-257 before the final vote.

As D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, pointed out in a press statement,

It is unfortunate, but we know that [the LGBT] community is not immune to domestice 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 identiy 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.

VAWA, first passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, expired in 2011, and it has taken this long for the Congress to move through Republican opposition to approve an updated bill. Once the bill is signed, it will be in effect for another five years and $659 million will be provided for various programs targeting domestic violence.

Said Feminist Majority president and Ms. publisher Eleanor Smeal,

Even with the election victories for women’s rights in 2012, outrageously the Republican House leadership was prepared to weaken the Violence Against Women Act, and even with these victories nearly succeeded in making it a partisan issue. The House GOP leadership’s attempt to gut and politicize VAWA failed and all survivors of violence won.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user AnonMedia  via Creative Commons 2.0