On to the President: Violence Against Women Act includes LGBT Protections

domestic

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to reauthorize a 1994 law that, among other things, bolsters funding and services available for victims of domestic violence abuse.

Unlike the 1994 act, the new National Violence Against Women Act, which passed the Senate a couple of weeks ago, also includes language specific to LGBT victims.

According to LGBT Nation, HRC President Chad Griffin calls the measure a win for the community, “It’s tremendous that both Republican and Democratic leaders came together to ensure that all domestic violence victims, including those who are LGBT, will not face discrimination when they seek services,” said Griffin. “There need not be a partisan divide on LGBT issues and this vote shows that we can come together to find common sense solutions to issues facing our community.”

The act is expected to boost anti-domestic violence programs in states like Idaho, where funding for such programs have been drastically cut. It could also help raise awareness and services for Idaho’s own LGBT community.

According to research,”Similarities can be seen between the cyclical patterns of abuse within same-sex relationships and that of heterosexuals.” The “rate of frequency of incidents of violence within same-sex relationships” are about the same as well.

There are some major obstacles unique to LGBT victims, however, especially when it comes to reporting an incident. One researcher on the issue notes,”The possibility of having one’s sexual orientation exposed against one’s will or knowledge (“outing”) is major factor that affects a…decision to report victimization. The threat of outing has been identified as a “dual edge sword” that is often used as a coercive tactic by abusers and inhibits some victims from seeking help.”

As one 2008 Boise State researcher noted,” As all citizens are to be treated equally and fairly by those who have sworn to “serve and protect”, no victim should have to choose between coming out of the closet and sweeping their problem under the rug as has occurred with domestic violence throughout history.”

There is also the very valid fear that authorities aren’t equipped or trained to handle same-sex domestic violence. While some departments in Idaho have begun discussing and even training officers on the issue, sometimes officers treat such calls much as they would a bar fight, missing out on the full dynamics of the situation. Community leaders hope that the legislation, once law, would help to further law enforcement training, not only here in Idaho, but around the country.

The Nation reports that “President Obama has pledged to sign the bill which prohibits any program or activity funded by the bill from discriminating against a victim based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It also explicitly includes LGBT victims in two key grant programs.”

The measure passed the House in a vote of 286 to 138.

The act was cosponsored by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. He along with Congressman Mike Simpson supported measure.  Senator Jim Risch and Representative Raul Labrador each voted no.

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