The House of Representatives passed the Violence Against Women Act, extending abuse protections to gay, lesbians, and transgender people, as well as Native Americans and immigrants.
The bill passed 286 to 138, with the support of 87 Republicans; it will now move to the president’s desk to be signed. A GOP substitute bill that left out protections for Native communities and LGBT people was defeated 166 to 257.
Democrats criticized Republicans for passing the bill the day before the sequester hits. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md said the automatic cuts would “take a sledgehammer” to programs supporting domestic violence victims. “This is shameful,” she said.
The previous VAWA, which created a National Domestic Violence Hotline and authorized federal funding for battered women’s shelters, expired in 2011. It was written by Vice President Joe Biden while he was in the Senate.
Under the current law, funding will continue for shelters and programs that prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault. New additions to the bill address stalking, spyware, and video surveillance. The bill specifically ensures that LGBT, Native American, and immigrant victims can access services and protections, including grants and legal aid.
The bill also gives greater jurisdiction to tribal courts to prosecute sexual offenders who aren’t Native Americans, but commit crimes against Native Americans or on the reservation. Rape on reservations is very high; 34% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes.