President Barack Obama on Thursday is set to sign legislation expanding the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to afford domestic violence protections to gay, lesbian and transgender victims as well as Native Americans and undocumented immigrants.
The existing VAWA law, first enacted in 1994 to aid victims of domestic violence, offers programs and services to survivors, the criminal justice system and the community. The law has established the federal prosecution of interstate crimes, identifies dating violence and stalking as crimes of domestic violence, offers federal funding for rape crisis centers and other provisions.
The bill, passed in Congress on Feb. 28, authorizes funding for more rape kits and a national registry of forensic evidence, strengthens trafficking statutes and makes other new provisions in addition to expanding coverage for more survivors. Men are covered under the law, but it’s called the Violence Against Women Act because women are disproportionally victims in domestic violence.
“That is a big win for not just women but for families and for the American people. It’s a law that’s going to save lives and help more Americans live free from fear,” Obama said following the bill’s passage.
A House version of the bill, favored by some Republicans, did not contain expansions for additional survivors and other measures contained in the version crafted by the Democratic-controlled Senate, which both chambers ultimately approved.
Obama is set to sign the legislation into law at a ceremony in the Interior Department building at 1:55 p.m. ET.
The president will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden, who as a Delaware senator authored the original VAWA legislation in 1994. They will be joined by members of Congress, women’s organizations and advocates, law enforcement officials, tribal leaders and domestic violence survivors, according to the White House.