U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, and a strong supporter of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), today condemned the House of Representatives' passage of a reauthorization measure, H.R. 4970, that fails to include critical provisions from the bipartisan reauthorization approved by the Senate last month. Reflecting the recommendations of law enforcement, the Senate version includes new protections for victims of domestic abuse who live on Native American reservations, are members of the LGBT community, or are immigrants to this country.
"Domestic violence touches all segments of our society, and every person who has been a victim of abuse -- regardless of their race, sexual orientation or residency status -- should be able to seek justice," Senator Coons said. "The Republican-led House of Representatives today once again chose to play politics with America's women by passing a discriminatory measure that would deliberately exclude whole segments of our society from receiving fair treatment under the law. Instead of taking up the bipartisan Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act, House Republicans are actively delaying and denying critical resources to local law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups."
On April 26, the Senate passed a strong, bipartisan Violence Against Women Act reauthorization with a 68 to 31 vote, upholding the bipartisan tradition of VAWA reauthorizations.
Senator Coons is a cosponsor of that bill, S.1925, which would improve existing programs to address evolving needs in the fight against domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The legislation supports training for those on the front lines of efforts to eliminate domestic violence. It takes the important step of explicitly preventing grant recipients from discriminating against victims who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and modifies the U-Visa program to make it easier for law enforcement to gain the cooperation of victims in prosecuting dangerous perpetrators.
The House version, in contrast, doesn't include any language to protect the LGBT community; fails to provide for concurrent special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction by tribal authorities over non-Indians; fails to provide needed support to law enforcement by expanding the U-Visa program; and fails to address the high rates of dating violence and sexual assault experienced by young people in college and other higher education institutions.
At a press conference on Wednesday morning, Senator Coons called on the House to pass the Senate-version of VAWA reauthorization. VIDEO: http://bit.ly/JwBlhm.
"While the Senate, sadly, initially faced partisan opposition, my colleagues joined together to rise above party politics and do what is right for the safety of Americans," Senator Coons said. "It is my hope that the House follows our lead on the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization and swiftly passes the Senate bill that helps to ensure safety for all."
Originally drafted by then-Senator Joe Biden, VAWA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, and has since been reauthorized twice: in 2000 and 2005. The law's current authorization, however, expired in September 2011. Programs supported by VAWA have provided victims with critical services such as transitional housing, legal assistance, and supervised visitation services. VAWA has also encouraged communities to coordinate their responses to domestic and sexual violence by bringing together victim advocates, law enforcement, the courts, health care professionals and leaders within faith communities.