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Violence Against Women Act: 7 Things to Know

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

After months of political debate, the Violence Against Women Act has been renewed. President Obama is poised to sign the bill into law.

VAWA, first passed in 1994, provides funding and legal protections for women who are victims of abuse. But in 2011, the law expired and Congress was unable to pass a reauthorization. Much of the problem centered on new provisions that would expand some parts of VAWA.

Those provisions are now final, and some of the changes are significant. Here are seven things you need to know about the Violence Against Women Act's renewal:

  1. New protections for gays and lesbians. The law conditions program funding on a policy of non-discrimination when it comes to gay and lesbian victims. That means this population will be able to benefit from the protections it provides.

  2. Transgender women are now included. This time around, VAWA really does protect all women, including transgender women who weren't previously included, reports CNN.

  3. More power to tribal courts. American Indian women who are raped or abused by non-Indians on tribal lands will have recourse in tribal courts. VAWA now gives tribal courts more authority to prosecute those crimes.

  4. Undocumented immigrants can seek protection. To add to the list of women who will now benefit from VAWA, undocumented immigrants are also included. They can report violence and seek program services without worrying about being deported.

  5. Less funding this time around. All these benefits come with a price tag, and that amount has gone down since last time. The reauthorization includes $660 million each year for the next five years, a 17% decrease from the last reauthorization in 2005.

  6. The vote was bipartisan. The Senate passed the bill in February with half of Senate Republicans voting in favor, according to The New York Times. In the House, 87 Republicans broke rank to side with Democrats in Thursday's vote.

  7. A Republican alternative bill was defeated. Last week, House Speaker John Boehner agreed to bring the measure to a vote if Republicans could offer an alternative bill. That measure didn't include the added protections listed above but that didn't matter. The alternative bill lost when the vote came down.

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