After a prolonged political battle, the House has finally approved an LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Washington Post notes that the vote indicated that opposition to VAWA was "damaging the [Republican] Party’s image."
The measure, which was already approved by the Senate, passed the House on a 286 to 138 vote, as 199 Democrats joined 87 Republicans to push the bill over opposition from a bloc of 138 conservatives, who opposed the bill for a number of reasons, including the new protections for gays and lesbians.
The outcome stemmed from a broad desire from GOP leaders to get past the Violence Against Women Act issue. It was an acknowledgment that their continued opposition to a measure that had passed with broad bipartisan support in the Senate and has strong appeal with women voters was damaging the party’s image.
The Anti-Violence Project notes that VAWA "includes LGBT people in three significant ways:
It names LGBT people as underserved populations in need of specific attention to address the unique issues they face as survivors of intimate partner or sexual violence. It prohibits VAWA grantee from discriminating against survivors of violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity when providing services. It establishes a specific purpose area to address LGBT violence at the state level.
The legislation also increases protections for Native Americans, immigrants, communities of color and students.
This historic legislation came shortly after the Centers for Disease Control released a national prevalence survey showing that lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience violence at the same or higher rates as heterosexual people. It comes a year after the New York City Anti-Violence Project's National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that transgender people experience sexual violence at twice the rate of non-transgender people.
Numerous studies have shown that Black and Latina trans women are at the greatest risk of violence and the murders of Black transgender women are often unsolved. Black trans women face "extreme discrimination and poverty", and are more than likely to suffer from violence, physical or sexual abuse, police brutality, HIV/AIDS and bullying, according to a first of its kind survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Black Justice Coalition.
"With VAWA and beyond, the National Black Justice Coalition is committed to taking a systematic approach to end the serial killings of Black trans women and violence against women in general," Sharon Lettman-Hicks, NBJC Executive Director and CEO, said in a statement to R20. "We will continue to raise awareness and visibility as well as work closely with agencies like the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and national organizations such as the NCAVP to track, report, and expose the prevalence of violence against and within the Black LGBT community."
"I am encouraged that our Members of Congress were able to come together despite the polarized political climate we live in," stated Sharon Lettman-Hicks, NBJC Executive Director and CEO. "Protecting women, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is bigger than political agendas and party line divides. It's about fairness."
See our report for EBONY: "GOP FAMILY VALUES: Domestic Violence Act Goes, Anti-Gay Legislation Stays"