Obama and VAWA

HeatherN is pleased to hear that President Obama may veto a version of VAWA that doesn’t make allowances for LGBT individuals.

 Author’s Note: I am aware of the issues many MRAs have with the VAWA. This article is not about that. Please keep that in mind when commenting.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been a controversial bill since it was first passed in 1994. It has been up for reauthorization multiple times since then, as well as facing a Supreme Court hearing. It’s been modified and changed along the way, including creating more gender-neutral language, including same-sex couples, and even eliminating some parts of it on the grounds that those parts were unconstitutional.

The bill is up for reauthorization in 2012 and Obama’s administration has announced Obama may veto it. Currently the version in the House differs from that in the Senate in one very important way: the House version fails to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in VAWA funded programs. It looks as though Obama is putting his money, or his veto, where his mouth is with regards to his support of recognizing same-sex couples.

If this is a political ploy to gain votes from LGBT individuals, it’s working on me.


Image of Flag of Rainbow courtesy of Shutterstock

About HeatherN

Heather N. is a Californian living in the United Kingdom. In order to survive, she has developed a keen appreciation for the color grey, rain, and sausage rolls. She spends far too much time reading, writing, blogging, and gaming. You can also find her saying witty things on Twitter.


  1. I propose a violence against normal people act.

    Any people regardless of the gender are excluded, if they support anyone else being excluded.

    In the interim, perhaps we should hold off on supporting the LGBT community in VAWA until the support for the exclusion of heterosexual men from VAWA isn’t so strong within the feminist allies within that group.

    • Eric M. says:

      “we should hold off on supporting the LGBT community in VAWA until the support for the exclusion of heterosexual men from VAWA isn’t so strong within the feminist allies within that group.”

      What other conclusion can possibly be reached without exposing a strong, clear, and present anti-male bias?

  2. I think there are considerable concerns about some of the LGBT language that exists in the bill, as it could actually serve to solidify discrimination in VAWA programs.

    Let’s compare two proposed amendments:
    Rep. Polis proposed an amendment that would specifically bar discrimination against people who identify as LGBT by programs that receive funding under the VAWA.

    Clearly there is no problem with this, and it’s silly that the amendment wasn’t adopted. In all likelihood this will probably be taken care of when the chambers meet in a conference committee as the Senate already approved this language, with several Republicans on board.

    But then there’s this other little gem:
    Rep. Quigley proposed an amendment that would have changed the definition of “underserved” groups to explicitly include gender indentity and sexual orientation.

    Under the VAWA, use of the term “underserved” carries a special meaning which grants access to additional resources, grants, and protections. By changing the definition to include gender identity and sexual orientation, we end up with a strange result where a man will be unable to get help in certain circumstances if he’s hetero, but will be able to get help in the exact same circumstances if he’s not. This is exactly the kind of problem that MRAs and others have complained about for years.

    Just to be clear, the current “underserved” distinction applies mostly to groups that are very expensive to serve: rural areas lack the infrastructure of urban areas, and so the same amount of service costs more, and hence the extra funding. There is a similar case made for Native Americans living on reservations. By expanding the definition to include gender identity and sexual orientation, the link between cost of service (due to lack of infrastructure) and additional grant money is cut, and we’re left with potential discrimination.

    So, yes, some of the LGBT language should definitely be included in the bill, but other language may serve only to reinforce the misandrist nature of the VAWA in the first place.

  3. The VAWA should never have been discriminating against same sex couples and men in the first place.

  4. I am wondering how Violence Against WOMEN Act could be applied in the case of gay couple since no woman in involved.

    • The U.S. has a history of naming different pieces of legislation problematically. The Patriot Act is one such example. Anyway, as to answer your question, the language within the bill itself is gender-neutral now.

      • It was forced to change the language, but its still very gednered, for example predominant aggressor guidelines direct the police to arrest the person that is larger, rather than the one who is the primary aggressor.

        “Origin of the Predominant Aggressor Concept Beginning in the mid-1980s, states began to enact mandatory arrest laws for domestic violence. Knowing that at least half of all cases of partner aggression are mutual, these policies triggered sharp increases in the number of arrests of men and women. In California, mandatory arrest policies caused the number of arrests of men to increase by 37%, while the number of arrested women soared by 446%.9 Advocates began to complain that the law was being enforced too aggressively, arguing arrested women were being “re-victimized” by the system. In response, the DoJ Office of Violence Against Women modified its grant requirements. Beginning in 2001, application kits for funding under the Violence Against Women Act asserted that dual arrests “trivialize the seriousness of domestic violence and potentially increase danger to victims.” Thereafter, grant recipients would need to “demonstrate that their laws, policies, or practice and their training programs discourage dual arrest of the offender and the victim.”10 This requirement spurred the adoption of the “predominant aggressor” concept in states around the country.”
        More here http://www.saveservices.org/pdf/SAVE-Predominant_Aggressor.pdf

        • Hiya…so yeah let’s focus back on LGBT discrimination via the House version of VAWA. Not because other forms of discrimination are unimportant, but because that’s the focus of this particular article.

          So, something that a lot of people don’t really think about is that there are lesbians who are worried about entering shelters for fear that their batterer (another woman) could have access to that shelter. That’s assuming the lesbian is allowed in at all and isn’t discriminated against based on her sexual orientation. So, that’s an example of where the woman=victim and man=aggressor dynamic intersects with LGBT issues in VAWA. Similarly, gay men are often denied the status of ‘victim’ at all, under the misconception that men cannot be victims.

          I also find it interesting that it’s the Republican party (more accurately social conservatives) that’s against making VAWA more equal with regards to LGBT individuals.

          • “Similarly, gay men are often denied the status of ‘victim’ at all, under the misconception that men cannot be victims.”

            And you have that taboo surrounding DV between lesbians, women can’t be abusers therefore lesbian relationships cannot have abusers OR victims.

            “I also find it interesting that it’s the Republican party (more accurately social conservatives) that’s against making VAWA more equal with regards to LGBT individuals.”

            Well, it should be handled by domestic violence professionals, which its not – and not subject to influence, superstition and bigotry be that coming from the people that presently control VAWA, or social conservatives on the other side. Throw out the feminists and exclude the right and hand it over to professionals in the field of psychology and abuse.

    • Eric M. says:

      Homo or heteros-exual men are obviously not their concern. VAWA is obviously purpose built for women; hence, the name.

  5. JustAMan says:

    The “L” in “LGBT” inclusiveness in VAWA is a red herring.

    Lesbians have always been able to receive services at VAWA-funded shelters because they are women.

    It is Gay and Bisexual Men and the Transgendered (ignoring Straight Men for the moment, at Joanna’s request) who have been discriminated against under VAWA and the women who run VAWA-funded programs. So, let’s skip the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the poor L-words in this regard, shall we? It is 100% false and phony.

    Don’t believe me? Talk to the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project in Massachusetts.

    I would like to say more, especially about the shameful political games the Democrats have played with VAWA this year. Those political “gotcha” games by urban and ultra-liberal Democratsn in Congress, including the First Amendment-violating Campus SAVE language which was so egregious they ultimately couldn’t line up enough mid-America Congressional Democrats as co-sponsors, are the source of what otherwise would have been a routine re-authorization of VAWA.

    Heather, you have been “had” by the political poker players on the left.

    • Lesbians have been discriminated against in VAWA programs, actually. Part of that is to do with the assumption that women aren’t aggressors. I’m not interested in playing Oppression Olympics, though, so I’m not trying to argue one group’s been discriminated against more than the others or something ridiculous as that. Any discrimination is too much.

    • Lesbians have always been able to receive services at VAWA-funded shelters because they are women.
      The problem is that in order to help lesbian victims one must acknowledge lesbian relationships (and as we can see a lot of people have a problem with that). From there one must also acknowledge that women can be violent (and even worse one must acknowledge that a male is not the one to blame for a woman being abused).

      From there its a train wreck of “Women don’t do stuff like that!” and “Women are THE victims of violence.”

  6. VAWA Fraud Victim says:

    It is a ploy. He just announced recently that he supports same sex marriage and now a bill comes is on its way to him with LGBT being left out. This is politics at it’s finest. I am glad that immigration fraud prevention is in 4970 but I think a few things were intentionally left out ensuring Obama gets the LGBT voters by using his veto. It’s always about politics and never about the real issues.

  7. It seems like the days of “if you don’t blindly support VAWA then that means you hate women and equality” are coming to an end. That’s a good thing.

    If all violence is as serious as people like to say it is (or at least they say it is when their prefered group is the subject of conversation on violence) then what exactly is so bad about trying to protect everyone from it?

  8. Eric M. says:

    Now you done did it. You have to bring up VAWA, one of the most sexist pieces of legislation in recent history. Supporting VAWA is supporting discrimination.

    Note: I am not a MRA. One doesn’t have to belong to the MRM or feminist movements to identify gender-based discrmination.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Please note that Heather’s very first statement in her piece was this:

      Author’s Note: I am aware of the issues many MRAs have with the VAWA. This article is not about that. Please keep that in mind when commenting.

      Let’s keep this discussion to the LGBT issues in VAWA. Thanks.

      • Just out of curiosity is there a recent comment thread on VAWA and the sexism towards males? Might be a good idea to link it to redirect those comments from here to there, allowing both discussions to happen. Maybe a quick article like this could be made on it?

        On-topic-Can you show me the problems you’re referring to Heather in regards to same-sex couples? Haven’t seen anything written about that aspect yet.

        • Right sorry, should have explained a bit better. Well first there’s the social issue…a lot of people assume domestic violence in a same-sex relationship is impossible. A man could protect himself from another man, right? And women don’t abuse each other, right? (This is where the discussion of gender does intersect with same-sex relationships).

          But with regards to the language of the bill itself…well we don’t have a federal anti-lgbt-discrimination bill and plenty of states offer no protection from discrimination to lgbt individuals. So, a lgbt individual could be fired, kicked out of their apartment, or denied services just for being lgbt. Without specific anti-discrimination language in VAWA, gay/bi/trans men and women could be refused support at VAWA funded programs based on their status as gay/bi/trans.

          • Ahhh, ok thanks. Sounds pretty awful! I see this VAWA treated like it’s a great thing by some but clearly it has major flaws, and I really can’t for the life of me understand why it hasn’t been gender-neutralized, and setup from a pure equality standpoint in this day n age? There shouldn’t be denial of service to anyone….I guess I am a dreamer though!

            • Well now we’re veering a bit off…but my understanding is that the language of VAWA is gender-neutral, now, though it wasn’t at first. (Whether the programs are actually gender-neutral in practice is another issue).

              And that’s the other thing…even if VAWA has anti-lgbt-discrimination language in it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that discrimination won’t happen. It’ll at least provide a basis for filing a law suit or something if lgbt individuals are discriminated against, though.

          • wellokaythen says:

            I see this part as a very important improvement in challenging the stereotypical binary of male attacker and female victim. Same-sex couples by their nature can’t really fall into that oversimplified view, as you point out, but they may still face domestic violence, so the law will be forced to recognize that reality doesn’t always fit this stereotype.

            Perhaps this is a further step in recognizing even more the reality that men can be victims of domestic violence and women can be perpetrators of domestic violence. LGBT activism could be quite a helpful, overlapping ally to men’s rights activism.

            • Women most certainly can be violent jerks. I don’t know why we persist in thinking they can’t. See here for example. I’m sure this is just good old fashioned fun found in bands and sorority houses across the nation. Cause nothin’s wrong with bullying!

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