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House VAWA Bill Differs From Senate on LGBT, Tribal Courts Provisions

House VAWA Bill Differs From Senate on LGBT, Tribal Courts Provisions

February 25, 2013 — House Republicans on Friday released a Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill that excludes protections for bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender individuals and offers more limited protections for Native Americans than its Senate counterpart (S 47), the New York Times' "The Caucus" reports.

Specifically, the bill's list of "underserved populations" who face barriers accessing and receiving services excludes "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" -- groups that are included in the Senate version. Proponents of the House measure said the bill offers broader support for abuse survivors by excluding such terms.

However, Michelle Ringuette -- chief of campaigns and programs for Amnesty International USA -- said, "This is unacceptable and must be rejected in the strongest possible terms." She added, "The U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure that all women are protected from violence, not just those favored by political expediencies."

On the issue of protections for Native Americans, the House bill does include a provision from the Senate version that would grant tribal courts authority to hear cases involving non-Native Americans who are charged with assaulting Native American women on reservations. However, the House version would allow defendants the option of taking their cases outside the tribal court system.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a Native American, said the provision "falls short in providing tribes the authority they need to secure their territory and protect their citizens." Cole plans to introduce an amendment to address the issue.

The House is expected to vote on the bill this week. According to "The Caucus," the House measure is unlikely to garner Democratic support (Parker, "The Caucus," New York Times, 2/22).