Today, on International Women’s Day, Barack Obama signed the renewal of the Violence Against Women act into law.
VAWA was originally written by then-Senator Joe Biden and first enacted into law in 1994. The law prevents rape offenders from using a victim’s sexual history against her and provides funding for training on rape and domestic abuse by local law enforcement and judges. It also provides funding for rape exams and protection orders so that victims will not have to pay for these things out-of-pocket and establishes a free hotline for victims of abuse to call when they need help.
Even though VAWA was passed back in 1994, it still has to be reauthorized by Congress every 5 years to remain law. When it came up for reauthorization in 2000 and 2005, Congress passed it with no controversy, which makes sense because who could possibly be against an inexpensive law that helps victims of abuse?
Well, that might seem obvious, but back in 2011 not everyone thought the same. Some extra protections for LGBT individuals and Native Americans were added to VAWA. Specifically, non-Native Americans who rape a Native American woman on tribal land could be tried in a tribal court under the new law. Additionally, language was added to make it clear that gay and transgender women and men were protected under VAWA. Some House Republicans, however, were unhappy with these provisions and refused to vote for VAWA until they were removed. They also wanted to remove a provision that provides a temporary visa to undocumented immigrants, which allows them to make a report of sexual abuse without fear of deportation.
After holding up the reauthorization of VAWA for over a year, the GOP finally realized they were fighting a losing battle and enough of them agreed to vote for the version of VAWA that contained protections for LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans. VAWA passed both the House and Senate and today, on this extra-historic International Women’s Day, Barack Obama signed it into law.
This afternoon Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett did a twitter Q&A about VAWA in which she confirmed the following:
- The new LGBT provision provides protection for both transgender women and men. source
- VAWA has been expanded to include gay men because “all communities experience violence [and] VAWA [was] strengthened to protect all people. LGBT victims face barriers to services.” source
- If you need help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org source
If you have 25 minutes to spare, watch this video of Joe Biden speaking about why he originally drafted VAWA and Barack Obama talking about why it is so important to women’s rights in the US. At the end of the video, Barack Obama signs the Violence Against Women Act to thunderous applause (though some person with an iPad decides to hold it up to get photos of the signing, essentially blocking the camera view. I wish I believed in hell so I could damn to hell all people who hold up iPads at events).
I also am contractually unable to mention Joe Biden without including this photo of me with Joe Biden’s butt that time he stood on my desk:
Happy International Women’s Day!
Biden photo used with permission by Kayla Benker
Featured Photo is an Official Whitehouse Photo by Chuck Kennedy