ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) - With a nod to Women’s History Month, the U.S. House voted Wednesday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, the 1994 landmark law that strengthened violence protections for women.
VAWA puts forth legal protections for women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence.
It passed in the house on a vote of 244 to 172, with 29 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting for it, however the measure may hit roadblocks in the Senate.
“It was first passed in 1994 and was sponsored by and closely shepherd by President Joe Biden, then-senator,” said Jill Locke, Gustavus Adolphus College Political Science Professor/ Program Director of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies.
“And we have heard President Biden talk about the Violence Against Women Act often during the campaign,” she continued.
The bill expired in 2018. Today, advocates say its renewal is more urgent than ever.
“We see a continuous uptick of domestic violence crimes and sexual violence crimes almost on a annual basis and the pandemic has made that more significant and the economic security and things going on have been really impactful,” said Jason Mack, executive director at the Committee Against Domestic Abuse.
The bill would expand and reauthorize various grants and programs.
“Like new funding for cultural, specific programming, new avenues of justice for victim and survivors that can include restorative justice processes outside of the criminal justice system as well as housing protection...There’s investment in prevention programming,” said Mack.
“There’s really just a lot packed in there to increase safety of victims as well as survivors in all communities as well as ours,” he continued.
But some provisions face opposition.
“The issues that seem to be controversial right now are further restrictions on firearms purchase for dating partners,” said Locke.
That would prevent partners or stalkers convicted of violence from purchasing and owning firearms.
While previous versions of the bill already prevented spouses from doing so some argue that interferes with 2nd Amendment rights.
“The other issue is transgender women’s access to women’s shelters, for women who are victims of domestic violence,” said Locke.
As the bill heads to the senate it will need 60 votes to pass.