Violence Against Women Act Doesn’t Include LGBT Protections; White House Disapproves

The Violence Against Women Act has been the latest intersection between the “war against women” and the “culture war” against the gay community. Republicans threatened to hold up renewal of the bill, which helps provide funding to support women experiencing domestic violence, because for the first time it included language that explicitly provided protections for LGBT people and undocumented immigrants. As of two weeks ago, it seemed as if their efforts might succeed in stripping the bill of its LGBT accommodations.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a version of VAWA that doesn’t include the protections for LGBT people, undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, or people living in subsidized housing by 17 votes. One representative, Republican Judy Biggert, attempted to add an amendment that would increase protections for LGBT survivors, but was blocked from introducing the amendment by “House leadership.” The House, which is majority Republican, is of the opinion that special protections for marginalized groups aren’t necessary, even when those marginalized groups have been proven to have restricted access to the resources and support that white straight cis people do, and often experience discrimination even when they can access those resources. According to the Republican majority, this isn’t an issue because “the bill is gender-neutral and covers all people.” Much like how the Declaration of Independence  says that “all men are created equal” and this has resolved all issues of racism, classism, sexism, cissexism, ableism, and homophobia.

Although it may appear that the Republicans have won their power play and have managed to use the threat of denying women access to resources they need to survive dangerous situations to keep LGBT people and other marginalized peoples from having the same thing, there’s this: on Tuesday, in the event that the House did in fact pass a final version of the bill that didn’t include LGBT protections, the White House threatened to veto it. The White House has issued a Statement of Administration Policy which says that the version of VAWA favored by the House “fails to include language that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT victims in VAWA grant programs,” and also that it fails to provide adequate protections for undocumented immigrants and individuals living in subsidized housing. The White House hasn’t committed to a veto, but announced that if the House proceeded with its version of the bill (which it did), “White House advisors would recommend that President Obama veto the bill.”

The veto isn’t definite, and it’s arguable whether it’s the most effective way to address the Right’s outlandish refusal to recognize even basic human rights of safety and physical security for communities that it considers inferior. But while Obama was careful not to make any legislative commitments to the gay community when he announced his support for same-sex marriage, this move from the White House may lend some weight to his statement of solidarity. Domestic violence affects same-sex couples at roughly the same rate it does straight couples, regardless of their legal right to marry, and the Violence Against Women Act could become a way in which they could at least have roughly equal recourse. The future of the bill is uncertain; really the only thing that seems definite is that the Republican majority seems committed to fighting tooth and nail to make sure we’re as vulnerable and undersupported a community as possible. But the future holds possibilities for new allies for us as well — maybe even in the White House.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books as well as news and politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel currently lives in Michigan. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

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11 Comments

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    Lacing up my steel toes……

    Cause if the government isn’t going to even do that thing where they pretend to help and protect us, I’m down to protect every person from abuse, and then kick some old white men in DC in the or the nads. I’m not sure what they value most.

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      I’m not as well informed about the situation for people in subsidized housing, but as far as I understand the issue for Native women is that it’s currently impossible to prosecute perpetrators of violence or assault in tribal courts if they’re non-Native. the increased protections in the amped-up VAWA legislation would have provided more power to tribal courts when dealing with non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence.

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    I have a billion feelings about this.

    One is that domestic violence rates are very stable across race, class, location, occupation, sexual orientation, etc. The exceptions to this are very important – Native American women and trans people are up to four times more likely to experience domestic violence. Even though reliable data is limited (which is another whole issue), it’s clear that rates are higher for these groups. And it’s clear that the vaaaaast majority of domestic violence (and sexual assault) services are developed by and geared towards white straight cis people with money. And, as Rachel said, it’s pretty well documented that access to these services is limited for marginalized groups in a billion ways, large and small, structurally and interpersonally.

    Solving the problem for the theoretical average, normative person solves it for no one and solving it for the theoretical most marginalized person solves it for everyone, so why do people keep choosing the option that doesn’t solve the problem? Because they like the problem. Because of the patriarchy. uggggggh

    but yayyyy possible allies!! and we are talking about it!!!

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    Its not true that it doesn’t help individuals in subsidized housing. I work administering a government subsidy program and the main thing on my mind is going into work this morning is assisting one of my vawa clients in breaking her lease and moving ASAP. There are so many regulations and greedy landlords in this industry that without this act we would be powerless. But we should give credit where it’s due. It was put into effect under the bush administration. Even if it is weak I still believe in acknowledging it as , unfortunately, I have to use it to aide a client at least once a week.

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    sometimes i get so fatigued by politics. i get so fucking tired of living in a country with a bunch of idiotic republican bigots. how can people keep voting for lunkheads who are clearly trying to subjugate anyone who is not rich, white, male, and christian?

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