House GOP strips LGBT protections from VAWA

Republicans unveiled their own version of the bill, which is being fast-tracked to a vote next week [UPDATED]

Topics: Violence Against Women Act, domestic violence, House Republicans, House Rules Committee, John Boehner, Gay Rights,

Updated – Feb. 22, 6:56 p.m.: Democrats have soundly rejected the House Republican version of the bill. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the senate version, said in a statement:

 “The Republican House leadership has decided to replace the Senate-passed version with a substitute that will not provide critical protections for rape victims, domestic violence victims, human trafficking victims, students on campuses, or stalking victims. This is simply unacceptable and it further demonstrates that Republicans in the House have not heard the message sent by the American people and reflected in the Senate’s overwhelming vote earlier this month to pass the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo bill.”

And Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., added that “This partisan bill is a non-starter in the Senate.”

From earlier:

House Republicans unveiled a version of the Violence Against Women Act that strips new protections for LGBT women, and changes the provision that would offer increased protections for Native American women.

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From the Huffington Post:

The House GOP bill entirely leaves out provisions aimed at helping LGBT victims of domestic violence. Specifically, the bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program. The bill also eliminates “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of groups who may not be denied funding under VAWA.

Additionally, the bill proposes compromise language aimed at helping Native American victims of violence. Under the Senate bill, tribal courts would gain new authority to prosecute non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations. The House bill also grants that new authority — a major change from their VAWA bill in the last Congress — but adds a caveat that would allow those people to move their case to a federal court if they feel their constitutional rights aren’t being upheld.

The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing on the bill on Tuesday, and leadership is planning to fast-track it to a floor vote. Though the bill has no sponsor, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., has emerged as a possible leader on the legislation.

Earlier this month, the Senate passed a version of the bill with all of the expanded protections, by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The bill had been allowed to stall and expire in September 2011, because of the increased protections for LGBT women, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans.

Jess McIntosh, the communications director for EMILY’s List, said in a statement to Salon: ”At every turn, the GOP tells women their health and safety just isn’t a priority. At least they’re consistent? What’s astonishing is Republicans don’t seem to understand that women are watching – and they cannot win elections without them.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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