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House Passes LGBT Inclusive Violence Against Women Act; Obama Vows To Sign

Washington D.C. — President Barack Obama has pledged to sign The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that passed The House of Representatives today. The House passed the Senate-approved version of the bill that includes important protections for LGBT people. Last May the House passed their own non-LGBT inclusive version in a highly partisan vote but that bill died at the end of the last Congress. The bills passage marks a rare occasion when Republicans and Democrats came together to ensure explicit protections in the federal code for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It is also the first time that any federal non-discrimination provisions include the LGBT community.

The Act, first introduced in 1994, helps individuals who have been victims of domestic violence by providing funding for shelters, investigation and prosecution of violent crime, and increased education for the courts and law enforcement on how to address domestic violence. The newly reauthorized Violence Against Women Act includes vital LGBT-inclusive provisions to promote access to justice and resources for all victims without the threat of discrimination.

"It´s tremendous that both Republican and Democratic leaders came together to ensure that all domestic violence victims, including those who are LGBT, will not face discrimination when they seek services," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. "There need not be a partisan divide on LGBT issues and this vote shows that we can come together to find common sense solutions to issues facing our community."

The bill was passed 78 to 22 in a bipartisan Senate vote and today’s 286 to 138 vote included 87 Republicans.

In a statement President Obama stated: "I was pleased to see the House of Representatives come together and vote to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse. Today’s vote will go even further by continuing to reduce domestic violence, improving how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community. The bill also reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, providing critical support for both international and domestic victims of trafficking and helping ensure traffickers are brought to justice. I want to thank leaders from both parties – especially Leader Pelosi, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Senator Leahy – for everything they’ve done to make this happen. Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk."

The bill prohibits any program or activity funded by the bill from discriminating against a victim based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It also explicitly includes LGBT victims in two key VAWA grant programs.

"It is unfortunate, but we know that our community is not immune to domestic violence, and for too long LGBT people have faced discrimination when they sought help. More than 61% of LGBT survivors reported being turned away from domestic violence shelters, and 85% of service providers working with LGBT victims of violence have observed discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 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." said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association. —Staff

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