US House votes for landmark LGBT+ protections in renewed Violence Against Women Act

US House passes bill protecting LGBT+ survivors of domestic violence

The Violence Against Women Act has been reauthorised by the US House, adding new support for LGBT+ survivors.

LGBT+ survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking will for the first time receive dedicated support, after the House of Representatives passed an amendment on Wednesday (17 March) creating a new grant programme.

The amendment, sponsored by Democrats Ayanna Pressley and Marie Newman, is part of the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark 1994 law that supports programmes for survivors of domestic abuse.

Reauthorising the act, the House has fulfilled Joe Biden‘s promise to do so within his first 100 days in office. Although LGBT+ people were included in the 2013 reauthorisation of the act under Barack Obama, this new amendment brings in the first grant program dedicated to expanding and developing initiatives specifically for LGBT+ survivors.

The amendment comes at a critical time when trans people, particularly trans women of colour, face an epidemic of male violence.

“On top of this harsh reality is the alarming rate at which LGBTQ+ survivors cannot access services solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Newman told NBC News.

“This new grant program is specifically designed to combat domestic violence against LGBTQ+ individuals through prevention education, outreach, training to victim service organisations and other entities.

“We cannot allow ourselves to ignore this gross injustice any longer. We must do more to protect all women, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer women.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, LGBT+ people experience intimate partner violence and sexual assault at rates higher than the general population.

Twenty-two per cent of bisexual women reported having experienced being sexually assaulted by an intimate partner, compared to nine per cent of heterosexual women, the CDC found. Forty-four per cent of lesbians and 61 per cent of bisexual women reported being victims of intimate partner violence, compared with 35 per cent of heterosexual women.

And according to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, half of trans Americans reports experiencing intimate partner violence.

The amendment came just a day after a man murdered six Asian women in Atlanta, something Pressley acknowledged.

“Last night’s devastating attack in Georgia that robbed us of the lives of eight people — including seven women, six of whom were Asian women targeted because of their race — reminded us that the crisis of gender-based violence is an intersectional one, and this legislation is needed now more than ever,” Pressley said.