Task Force slams U.S. House passage of Violence Against Women Act that removes coverage for LGBT people

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force expressed outrage at the U.S. House’s passage of an amended Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill that removes explicit protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims of domestic violence. It also fails to include protections found in the Senate version related to Native Americans, immigrants and college students.

The Senate approved the reauthorization of an intact and inclusive Violence Against Women Act last month in a 68 to 31 vote. The White House issued a veto threat yesterday of the House GOP version, saying it is unacceptable.

The 1994 federal law provides funds to enhance investigation and prosecution of violent crimes such as domestic violence and sexual assault, and it bolsters victim services programs. The Task Force Action Fund is among a broad coalition of organizations that has been lobbying for inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the law.

We need the inclusive version of this bill because:

  • LGBT people experience domestic violence in 25-35% of relationships, which is the same rate as the general population.
  • LGBT victims face discrimination when accessing services, including being turned away from shelter, mis-arrested as the primary aggressor by local law enforcement, and denied orders of protection.
  • In a 2010 study, 96% of victim services and law enforcement agencies said that they did not have specific services for LGBT victims. In fact, studies have shown that only one in five survivors of same-gender sexual assault and intimate partner violence received victim services.

Statement by Rea Carey, executive director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

Does the House Republican leadership have no shame? Obviously not. Once again, they’re up there on the Hill, sitting in their cushy offices — paid for by taxpayers, I might add — making bad decisions about regular people’s lives. This time, it’s victims of domestic violence who will suffer because of these obstructionist shenanigans.

To be the target of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking — whether perpetrated by a stranger or an intimate partner — is terrifying and traumatic. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not immune from this violence, and their distress should not be exacerbated by a lack of proper response from service providers or law enforcement. Imagine being assaulted, scared and in pain — and then also being turned away from receiving basic services and care.

The Violence Against Women Act passed by the Senate and supported by the White House is a model bill designed to meet the needs of all victims of domestic violence in the country. The House version coldly and unnecessarily puts people at risk at a time when they are most vulnerable. Whether it’s access to health care or access to life-saving services, House leadership keeps turning their backs on the people, and on our common humanity. This is unacceptable. We urge the conference committee to put the critical provisions for LGBT people and our families back into the bill.