The House of Representatives approved reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, but did not approve of the portion that would have explicitly included LGBT victims of violence.
The bill passed 222-205 on Wednesday. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Republican representative Judy Biggert wanted to add an amendment to increase specific protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence, but House leadership blocked her from introducing the amendment.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed VAWA with a bipartisan 68-31 vote. The law organizes federal funding to enhance investigation and prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault while also supporting victim service programs. The Senate version was the first to have LGBT-inclusive provisions. Senators defeated an amendment 36-63 that would have rewritten the bill and excluded coverage for LGBT violence victims. The Anti-Violence Project reports that LGBT domestic violence victims have fewer supportive services, and they often face discrimination when seeking help. The Senate bill would ensure that all people are able to access services regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill that passed in the House also excluded specific protections for Native Americans and undocumented immigrants, who also face discrimination when seeking help. Still, Republican leaders claim that the bill is gender-neutral and covers all people.
HRC president Joe Solmonese said House Republicans were putting politics ahead of the well being of domestic abuse victims. “It is unfortunate – though not surprising – that some lawmakers refuse to acknowledge the basic dignity and respect LGBT domestic violence victims deserve," he said in a statement shortly after the vote. "These lawmakers are leaving victims out in the cold with nowhere to turn for help, and attempting to further stigmatize many of the stereotypes associated with domestic abuse. We urge lawmakers to work together in conference so that VAWA is inclusive of all victims of domestic abuse.”