WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to approve the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but unlike the LGBT-inclusive Senate version, the House bill failed to address discrimination faced by LGBT victims of domestic violence.
The bill passed 222-205, with only 22 Republicans opposing it.
The Violence Against Women Act, which aims to protect victims of domestic violence, was first enacted in 1994 and has been renewed twice since.
In April, Senate Democrats added additional protections to cover Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and gay, lesbian and transgender victims, in addition to those already protected under the legislation. That version of the bill passed late last month with bipartisan support.
The House version of the bill, however, stripped out those expansions.
In a statement released shortly after the vote, Human Rights Campaign 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,” said Solmonese said.
“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.”
The HRC noted that Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) wanted to offer an amendment to the bill that would have increased protections for LGBT victims, but the House Republican leadership blocked her from even offering the amendment.
The House and Senate must now come together to resolve the differences between the two bills with a conference committee.
Democrats and the Obama administration want the House to pick up the Senate’s version of the bill.
Vice-President Joe Biden, who wrote the law in 1994 while serving in the Senate, urged Congress to “come together to pass a bipartisan measure that protects all victims,”
“VAWA has been improved each time it’s been reauthorized, and this time should be no different,” Biden said, in a statement.