US Senators from both political parties have voted to renew and expand the Violence Against Women Act, after the same decision was blocked in 2012 by Republican opposition to new provisions concerning gay people, immigrants and Native Americans.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 78-22 to pass the bill, including 23 Republican votes among the supporters. This allows it to proceed to the House of Representatives. If it passes a vote there it will be sent to President Obama to be renewed until 2018.
Despite failing to pass the House in 2012, lawmakers are optimistic that it will succeed this year, as 17 House Republicans have already written a letter of support for the bill and 195 of 200 House Democrats are sponsors of it.
President Barack Obama praised the bipartisan vote in a statement and said: “It’s now time for the House to follow suit and send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.”
The law was first introduced in 1994 and was renewed twice with bipartisan support. However, the last attempt to renew it in 2012 failed, as Republicans and Democrats could not compromise on additions which tried to extend protections to gay people, immigrants and Native Americans.
With these provisions, gay men and lesbians would be entitled to benefit from domestic violence programmes without fear of discrimination.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said before the vote that the new provisions showed that a “victim is a victim is a victim — and violence is violence.”
These additions managed to pass in this year’s vote, except for a provision which would have expanded visas for battered migrants.
Despite failing to push the visa addition, the bill offers greater protections to immigrants, gay men, and lesbians, as well as allowing non-Native Americans who commit violence against Native American women to be tried in tribal courts.
Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar said in response to the news: “One of the lessons from this election is that women are going to stand up — they’re going to stand up for themselves — and when people start messing around with questioning rape and questioning victims and talking about things in ways that women find offensive, they’re going to respond.”