Republicans in the House of Representatives Friday introduced a modified version of the Violence Against Women Act that strips the bill of its express protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity, which would enable states to exclude lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual women from receiving benefits under the grant. The House version of the VAWA also modifies language concerning Native American women, adjusting the capability of tribal authority to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence on reservations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has denounced the bill, which is radically different from the all-inclusive version that passed the Senate last week with bipartisan support.
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.
Fist enacted in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act failed to be reauthorized by Congress due to Republican opposition for the first time in its history. Last April, the Senate passed a modified version of the VAWA that gave expressed protections to lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and Native American women, after consulting with law enforcement, survivors of domestic violence and their advocates. It was the first time the VAWA specifically addressed the issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and Native American tribal law and reservations. It was then rejected by House Republicans for being "politically driven."
Legal protections and services for survivors of domestic violence is of particular concern for transgender and transsexual women. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that abuse within relationships where one or both partners are trans may be verbal, physical or sexual. This may even include a partner denying a trans woman proper medical treatment such as hormone therapy. Many cases of violence against trans women go unreported, due to fear of transphobia by law enforcement and the judicial system. If the non-inclusive version of the bill is passed by the House of Representatives, these issues are likely to escalate.