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Congressman Pocan & LGBT Equality Caucus Applaud House Passage of VAWA

Feb 28, 2013
Press Release
House Passes Senate version of bill with necessary protections for LGBT victims

WASHINGTON—U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and his colleagues in the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus today applaud the House passage of a comprehensive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that maintains strong protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. When House Republicans introduced a substitute amendment to VAWA that removed vital protections for victims who identified as LGBT, as well as Native Americans, immigrants and college students, the Equality Caucus sent a letter to their colleagues urging them to reject the House VAWA substitute because of its discriminatory provisions. Republican leadership in the House ultimately allowed for a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill, which passed the House by 286 to 138. The legislation now goes to the president for his signature.

“Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and we have passed a comprehensive, expanded VAWA that refuses to choose which victims of domestic violence deserve our support,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). “The lives and safety of our families should never have been pawns in the game of politics that is played too often in Congress. All victims of these heinous crimes, no matter their sexual orientation, deserve the full protection and services provided under this landmark law.”

“Domestic violence prevention has and should continue to be an issue that Democrats and Republicans can agree on and work together to advance,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).  “I am glad that Republican leadership finally realized they could not afford to continue alienating many Americans by attempting to exclude provisions that protect LGBT, immigrant, student and Native American victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. As a co-sponsor of the inclusive Violence Against Women Act that passed the House today, I  thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for doing the right thing and voting for this bill and sending it to President Obama to sign.”

“I am delighted that we were successful today in defeating a terrible House Republican proposal that would have omitted essential protections against domestic violence and sexual assault for members of the LGBT community, immigrants, and Native Americans,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). “Instead, a strengthened, bipartisan Violence Against Women Act will become law and help ensure that all women are protected from domestic violence, no matter what they look like, where they come from, or who they love.”

“I'm very proud to be part of the effort to re-authorize a stronger and inclusive Violence Against Women Act,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). “With this vote today, we affirmed some of our most cherished and fundamental American guarantees – that people deserve our protection regardless of who they are or where they are from.”

“I’m pleased to see the House Leadership giving a vote to the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which keeps the protections for LGBT women intact,” said Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA). “This is a huge victory, as members of the LGBT community were told time and again over the past year that they didn’t deserve the protections granted in the Violence Against Women Act. Nothing could be further from the truth. We must do all we can to prevent acts of violence, and I applaud the lawmakers and advocacy groups who remain committed to the rights of all citizens, regardless of who they love.

“It's ridiculous that the last Congress failed to pass basic protections for all victims of domestic and sexual violence,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY). “After waiting for over 500 days, we can celebrate that all women, children and men including LGBT victims will not have to suffer in silence in the face of domestic violence and abuse.”

These are some of the provisions that differed between the House substitute amendment and the bipartisan Senate bill:


  • Removing gender identity and sexual orientation from the non-discrimination policies contained in the bill, effectively eliminating the requirement that all programs or activities that receive VAWA funding provide services to victims regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 
  • Failing to include LGBT populations in the STOP grant program, the largest VAWA grant program, which supports law enforcement, prosecution, court and victim service activities in every State; and
  • Eliminating gender identity and sexual orientation from the definition of “underserved populations,” thereby blocking needed funding from service providers who help vulnerable LGBT victims, a population that faces barriers to care.

LGBT victims experience domestic violence at roughly the same rate as all other victims, yet according to a 2011 study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, over 61% of LGBT victims are turned away from domestic shelters.