The Violence Against Women Act passed the U.S. Senate Thursday in a 68-31 vote but marked the first time since its passage in 1994 that the renewal brought opposition.
This renewal featured the expansion of VAWA’s protections to LGBT victims of domestic abuse, as well as extending the amount of temporary visas for illegal immigrants of abuse and allowing tribal courts to handle cases of abuse against Native American women on reservations by non-Indian suspects.
Anti-gay Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, were working an alternative version that lowered the amount of temporary visas and removed the LGBT provisions.
Although Hutchison and 14 other Republicans voted for the LGBT-inclusive VAWA after the Senate rejected the alternative bill, she reportedly said that she “worked with many of my colleagues to have a substitute that has the same coverage but is better in other ways.”
The bill reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act for five years and lowers the funding by $136.5 million to $659.3 million a year from the last act. The money funds programs such as legal assistance for victims and transitional housing.
House Republicans are also working on an alternate bill, which is supposed to mirror Hutchison’s by leaving out LGBT victims of domestic abuse. The House is expected to vote on the bill in May.
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement Friday about the anti-LGBT version of the bill that was introduced.
“The House Republican leadership’s version of VAWA reflects their political objectives, but not the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said. “We can’t afford to turn a blind eye to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. LGBT victims of domestic violence face a number of challenges when it comes to receiving care. The Senate version of VAWA ensures no one ever will be turned away from critical services simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; the House version leaves LGBT people out in the cold.
“Despite rhetorical claims that the Senate bill was political and partisan, the fact of the matter is that 15 Republican Senators voted for the bill and 63 Senators rejected an amendment similar to the House Republican bill,” Solmonese said. “The Senate bill is bipartisan and is the VAWA that is supported by law enforcement, court, prosecution, legal services, and victim services professionals.”