Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have answered the Senate’s proposal to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by presenting their own version of the bill, but with protections of LGBT Americans taken out and a loophole that could exempt Native Americans victims of domestic abuse.
The House bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from “the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program,” wrote Huffington’s Jennifer Bendery. As a result, funds could potentially be witheld from LGBT-inclusive shelters and crisis centers.
States would have more discretion under the House version of the bill to determine what populations are being underserved, and are therefore more deserving of funding than others.
House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that protections included in the Senate bill for Native American victims of domestic violence are “unconstitutional.” Under the House bill, Native American tribal courts can prosecute non-Native American perpetrators of domestic abuse, but the maximum sentence those courts can impose is set at 1 year.
In his protest against the Native American protections included in the Senate bill, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said that Native American juries are incapable of trying a white person fairly.
The House bill allows the accused to take their case to federal court if they feel their rights are being infringed upon. Think Progress reported, “Currently, Native American victims with non-native partners are caught in a limbo where tribal courts cannot touch perpetrators but federal law enforcement does not have jurisdiction.”