Although the Senate has already passed a bipartisan version of the Violence Against Women Act, House Republicans are planning to “strip its contents and put their language into that bill,” language that excludes protections for LGBT victims.
On Friday House Republican leaders introduced their own version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill with very little fanfare. The Senate passed a bipartisan version of the VAWA last week, but this new version from House GOP members has several striking differences to the bill. As the Huffington Post points out, the new version of the bill being presented by the Republican party omits protections for the LGBT community, and has modified “language targeting Native American victims of domestic abuse.” The House Rules Committee website announced that they will “begin moving the bill forward in a Tuesday hearing,” and an aid to the House Republican leadership confirmed the bill is expected to be brought to a “full vote” later in the week. Several of the obvious differences are,
The House GOP bill entirely leaves out provisions aimed at helping LGBT victims of domestic violence. Specifically, the bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program. The bill also eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Finally, the bill excludes the LGBT community from the STOP program, the largest VAWA grant program, which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.
Another notable difference in the House bill relates to a provision targeting Native American victims. Under the Senate bill, tribal courts would gain new authority to prosecute non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations. The House bill also grants that new authority — a major change from the bill House Republicans put forward in the last Congress — but adds a caveat that would allow those people to move their case to a federal court if they feel their constitutional rights aren’t being upheld.
The House GOP argues that their new version of the VAWA does in fact protect LGBT victims. An aide said, “The House bill protects all people from discrimination. The Senate bill continues to add people to an enumerated list, therefore excluding those categories not on the list and requiring constant updating. The House bill also allows states, through which VAWA grants flow, to determine the best recipients of those funds, based on the victim populations in their areas.” But several national domestic violence groups have already weighed in on the new version and one of those, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women has already released a statement in opposition to the bill. They said, “Unfortunately, the National Task Force must oppose the House proposed VAWA legislation filed today. This legislation lacks necessary protections for victims of violence and rolls back current law. NTF supports efforts to move the House legislation closer to the inclusive, bipartisan Senate-passed bill.”
Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, has gone even further in her criticism of the House GOP version of the bill, trashing it completely. She said in a statement released on Friday, “House Republicans just can’t help themselves. Even with a strong, bipartisan bill passed by the Senate for the second Congress in a row, even with countless women in need of support and protection, Republicans are still turning the Violence Against Women Act into a partisan political football.”
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