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LGBT-Inclusive Domestic Violence Act Passes in Senate

LGBT-Inclusive Domestic Violence Act Passes in Senate

The Senate passed the first LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with a bi-partisan 68-31 vote, introducing explicit protections for LGBT survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

The Senate passed the first LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with a bi-partisan 68-31 vote, introducing explicit protections for LGBT survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. 


The law organizes federal funding to enhance investigation, and prosecution  of domestic violence, and sexual assault while also supporting victim service programs. VAWA was originally enacted in 1994, but it has never made LGBT-inclusive provisions. Senators defeated an amendment with a 36-63 vote, that would have re-written the bill and excluded protections for LGBT violence victims. 

According to Sharon Stapel of the Anti-Violence Project, 25%-35% of same-sex relationships suffer from domestic violence and abuse, which is about the same rate as other relationships. However, LGBT domestic violence victims have fewer supportive services, and they often face discrimination when seeking help. This latest reauthorization ensures that all people are able to access services regardless of his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. 

"To be the target of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking is terrifying and traumatic," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said in a statement shortly after the vote. "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not immune from this violence, and their distress should not be further heightened by a lack of proper response from service providers or law enforcement. Imagine being assaulted, scared and in pain — and then being turned away from receiving basic services and care. No one should ever be subjected to such inhumane treatment."

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has yet to act on this reauthorization bill, but is expected to vote on it as early as May.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement shortly after the vote urging her House colleagues to reauthorize VAWA. 

"House Democrats, led by Congresswoman Gwen Moore, have proposed legislation that mirrors the bill passed by the Senate," she said. "Both bills extend defense against domestic abuse, sexual assault, and stalking; include provisions to expand the classes of victims who would be protected – including Native Americans and the LGBT community; and ensure protections for immigrants affected by domestic violence."

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Michelle Garcia