The U.S. Senate today voted 78-22 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, with a provision to assure services to gay and lesbian survivors of domestic violence.
The legislation may have a tough time getting passed in the House of Representatives, though, as some Republican members object to the gay-inclusive provision as well as those covering undocumented immigrants and allowing Indian tribes to prosecute non-Indians for crimes committed on tribal lands, ABC News reports. Still, House leaders have promised quick action.
The original Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, but it expired in 2011, and Congress failed to reauthorize it last year, due to partisan differences over details. Vice President Joe Biden, who as a senator from Delaware helped pass the 1994 bill, is working with House Republican leader Eric Cantor on that chamber's new version of the legislation, the Associated Press reports.
The reauthorization would provide $650 million to states over five years to go toward transitional housing, legal assistance, and other services for people who have suffered domestic violence. It contains a provision that would prohibit denial of services on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability. Studies indicate many LGBT victims of domestic abuse have been turned away from shelters or denied protecton orders.
"I am proud that our bill seeks to support all victims, regardless of their immigration status, their sexual orientation or their membership in an Indian tribe," Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the lead sponsor, said in a prepared statement. "As I have said countless times on the floor of this chamber, 'a victim is a victim is a victim.'"
President Obama issued a statement saying the bill "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." He called on the House to follow the Senate's lead and pass the measure.