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Feb 28, 2013
Finally, I am crying tears of joy today, the House of Representatives, which has stalled in passing a version of the Violence Against Women Act that was inclusive of the LGBT community, finally passed the more inclusive Senate version.
Thursday’s votes reflected an emerging political reality in the GOP-led House, with a minority of Republicans joining Democrats to pass legislation supported by the public, including increasingly influential demographics such as Hispanic Americans.
By a vote of 166-257, the GOP version of the Violence Against Women Act failed to win a majority after almost 90 minutes of debate. The House then voted 286-138 to pass the Senate version, with 87 Republicans joining all 199 Democrats to provide majority support.
Originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized since, the act provides support for organizations that serve domestic violence victims. Criminal prosecutions of abusers are generally the responsibility of local authorities, but the act stiffened sentences for stalking under federal law.
Supporters credit the act with sharply reducing the number of lives lost to domestic violence over the past two decades.
Last year, the House and Senate were unable to compromise on another extension of the act, with Republicans opposing Democratic attempts to specify inclusion of native Americans, undocumented immigrants and lesbian, transgender and bisexual women.
For the first time in our history, it will now be against federal law to tell a woman who is lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender that they cannot receive domestic violence services, and it will now be illegal to tell a transgender woman who is displaced by domestic violence that they cannot be in a women’s shelter. As a survivor myself, I now feel safe in mind that I will have a place to go if I ever am threatened by roommates again.
In other good news, Native American women will be protected from violence by provisions that give a “long arm” to tribal courts to prosecute sexual abuse against Natives by non-Natives.
Thank you to all those representatives who put the needs of LGBT, Native American, and/or immigrant women above petty partisanship, which included practically EVERY single representative in the Philadelphia area. You have made me cry tears of joy.
-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis