To better protect LGBT victims of domestic violence, Congressman Jared Polis today sought to amend the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to bar discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity to ensure equal access to the services the legislation supports, such as legal representation, housing, and counseling. Studies show that while LGBT Americans experience domestic violence at roughly the same rate as the general population, less than one in five LGBT victims of intimate-partner violence receives help from a service provider. The amendment to the bill, H.R. 4970, failed on a party line vote of 14-18.
"All victims of domestic violence require our care, support and understanding," said Polis. "On a bipartisan basis, we should be able to include these basic protections for LGBT Americans--as the Senate did--and ensure that the critical services supported by VAWA are available to all. No one should be denied any service based on their sexual orientation or gender identity."
The amendment would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the nondiscrimination provision in the bill, which already explicitly covers individuals regardless of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or disability. This would ensure that all programs or activities that receive federal funding from VAWA provide services regardless of a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This same language was included in the Senate VAWA bill, which passed by a vote of 68 to 31. The amendment was cosponsored by Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL), Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA).