Surprising exactly no one, House Republicans released a watered-down version of the Violence Against Women Act on Friday that fails to guarantee equal coverage for LGBT victims of domestic violence. Where the bipartisan VAWA bill that cleared the Senate last week granted access to federal grants for LGBT victims, the 288-page bill House version contains some notable changes. HuffPost reports:
The House GOP bill entirely leaves out provisions aimed at helping LGBT victims of domestic violence. Specifically, the bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program. The bill also eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Finally, the bill excludes the LGBT community from the STOP program, the largest VAWA grant program, which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.
Single-handedly keeping Kleenex® in business, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was unable find the time to release a statement about the bill. Similarly, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) stayed mum, but his spokeswoman Megan Whittemore said the GOP leader is “committed to ending violence against all women.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a chief advocate for VAWA in the Senate, blasted the House bill as a “non-starter” and urged moderate Republicans to take action: “It’s not a compromise, it’s an unfortunate effort to exclude specific groups of women from receiving basic protections under the law… The protections included in the Senate for new communities of women are not bargaining chips that can be played with in order to appease the far right in their party. These are badly needed new tools to give women an escape from a life stunted by abuse…It’s time for moderate Republicans in the House to step up and finally force their leadership to stop ignoring the calls of women across the country.”
The House is expected to vote on the new measure next week.