Yesterday, the House voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a bill that increases the criminal justice response to intimate partner violence and violence against women and provides funding resources for victims.
The bill included an amendment that would create the first grant program specifically intended to support LGBTQ victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
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The reauthorization passed 244 to 172. All of the 172 Congressmembers who voted against it were Republicans, although 29 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the bill.
“The Violence Against Women Act is about saving lives and ensuring justice for survivors who have suffered in silence for too long,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) said in a statement to NBC News. Pressley introduced the amendment with Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL).
“But until now, Congress’s efforts have overlooked the hurt and harm felt by LGBTQ+ survivors, especially trans women of color. I’m proud that this year’s Violence Against Women Act included my provision to create grants and services dedicated to serving members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The bill adds “culturally specific and population specific organizations, and specifically organizations whose leadership include Black or Indigenous people, People of Color, or LGBTQ+ individuals” in a section about grants to “strengthen the healthcare system’s response” to intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Some of the main criticisms Republicans made of the reauthorization bill is that it includes violence against transgender women – Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-MN) specifically cited language in the bill that it protects victims “of any gender” – and that it restricts gun rights of people who have been convicted of stalking.
“This legislation makes it clear that Democrats consider gun ownership a second-class right,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), even though Senate Republicans seemed to be in agreement the same day that women’s rights are of paramount importance.
Violent crimes against transgender women of color have hit an all-time high over the past two years with at least 11 women already murdered so far this year.
Meanwhile, observers believe the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where 10 Republican votes are needed to pass it under current rules. Despite hearing just yesterday about how much Senate Republicans care about any potential threat to women’s rights.