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Feminspire | April 21, 2014

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Republicans Gut VAWA to Remove the Communities Most at Risk

Republicans Gut VAWA to Remove the Communities Most at Risk

In a not-so-surprising yet unscrupulous move Friday, House Republicans stripped the trans*/LGBTQIA community of any protection under the Violence Against Women Act.

Last April, the Senate passed a more progressive version of the VAWA. The new modified version gave protection to lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and Native American women, after researching statistics on survivors of domestic violence and consulting with law enforcement and domestic violence advocates. This would be the first time the VAWA specifically addressed the issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and Native American tribal law and reservations, only to be rejected by House Republicans for being “politically motivated.”

“House Republicans just can’t help themselves. Even with a strong, bipartisan bill passed by the Senate for the second Congress in a row, even with countless women in need of support and protection, Republicans are still turning the Violence Against Women Act into a partisan political football,” was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) reaction to the House Republicans rejecting the modified version of the Violence Against Women Act.

The House quietly published it’s own version of the bill on the House Rules Committee website this past Friday. The bill removes ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ from the list of under-served populations who can’t access victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBTQIA victims from related grant programs. A requirement in the Senate bill stating that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity was also eliminated. On top of all this, the largest VAWA grant program, the STOP program,which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence, also excludes the LGBTQIA community.

“The House bill protects all people from discrimination. The Senate bill continues to add people to an enumerated list, therefore excluding those categories not on the list and requiring constant updating. The House bill also allows states, through which VAWA grants flow, to determine the best recipients of those funds, based on the victim populations in their areas,” A House GOP leadership aide said, defending the VAWA bill that doesn’t protect LGBTQIA victims.

Without the specific language in the VAWA, it will enable states to exclude lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transexual women from receiving benefits under the grant! Studies already show that those in the LGBTQIA community are far less likely to report instances of abuse for fear of discrimination by law enforcement and the judicial system. Others won’t report simply for the fear of being ‘outed.’ A major advocacy group, The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, expressed their deep concerns regarding the modified bill with a statement also released Friday:

“Unfortunately, the National Task Force must oppose the House proposed VAWA legislation filed today. This legislation lacks necessary protections for victims of violence and rolls back current law. NTF supports efforts to move the House legislation closer to the inclusive, bipartisan Senate-passed bill.”

The systematic and specific removal of  ’sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ from the list in the VAWA purposefully eliminates a much needed safety net for the trans* community. Further alienation of those based solely on their sexual or gender identity is a highly caustic decision on the House’s part. Without protection under the law, the trans community will continue to suffer in silence. VAWA is in desperate need of equality in it’s language, and therefore we must support the original modified version already passed in the Senate with bi-partisan support. With the House Rules Committee moving the bill forward in a Tuesday hearing, the House is expected to bring it to a vote later next week, a House Republican leadership aide confirmed. We have to take action and let our voices be heard. We will not stand for this blatant discrimination. We will, however, stand with our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters*.

*all gender and sexual identities recognized

Written by Brittany Haak

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