Update on the Violence Against Women Act

May 18, 2012

On April 26, 2012 the U.S. Senate reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) including the provision of expanded protections for Native Americans, immigrants (including undocumented), and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. However, it soon became clear that the Republican lead House of Representatives would not vote for the Senate version of the Act so long as it included the expanded protections. As stated in a Forbes Magazine article: “The bill has had an enormous impact for good on millions of women across the nation, and yet Republicans are in opposition to its reauthorization, largely driven by their disagreement with additional provisions that would accommodate same-sex couples and undocumented immigrants. Today, the national hotline for domestic violence receives more than 23,000 calls every month. ‘Imagine the courage it takes to call that number,’ said Vice President Biden. ‘This bill is as relevant today as it was the day it passed.”


In its role as an advocate for social justice issues, the National Association of Social Workers has sent letters to all members of the House of Representatives asking them to reauthorize VAWA in the current form as passed by the Senate, which would include expanded protections to Native Americans, undocumented Immigrants, and the LGBT community.

However, as a demonstration of the Republicans in the House of Representatives’ opposition to the Senate’s version of the VAWA reauthorization, Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) introduced a House version of VAWA (HR4970) which strips out the protections for Native Americans, undocumented immigrants and the LGBT community. On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, the House passed the Adams version of VAWA by an essentially party-line vote of 222-205. The House version (H.R. 4970) passed by the House specifically removed LGBT protections, and eliminated protections for women and children who are victims of domestic violence on Indian reservations by abusers who are not members of a particular tribe. The House VAWA reauthorization also removes a major provision from the Senate bill that would make it easier for domestic violence victims to change subsidized housing programs in order to avoid an abuser who trying to re-contact her. Another provision dropped from the House version is the protections against violence against women that often happens on college campuses.

The next steps for reauthorizing VAWA include a presidential veto (which President Obama has promised to do), and/or an effort by the Senate and House to meet and reconcile the differences between the two versions of VAWA. Individuals who agree that the greatly watered down HR 4970 should not be allowed to become law can write or call their member of Congress to encourage them to retain the protections in the Senate version of VAWA.