WASHINGTON, February 28 (RIA Novosti) – The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a new version of the Violence Against Women Act that will expand federal protections to gays, lesbians and other vulnerable groups, and President Barack Obama pledged he would promptly sign the bill into law.
The bill, approved by the US Senate last year, passed in the Republican-controlled House on Thursday by a vote of 286-138 after months of delay over conservatives’ objections to extending federal protections based on sexual orientation and expanding jurisdiction of Indian courts in domestic violence cases.
“Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk,” Obama said in a statement posted on the White House website.
The original US Violence Against Women law enacted in 1994, was pushed heavily by Vice President Joe Biden when he was a senator and was credited with raising public awareness about domestic violence directed at women, assisting its victims and prosecuting its perpetrators.
The law expired in 2011 and while politicians in both parties were in general agreement on the need to extend the measure they were at odds on many details, including its expansion to protect homosexuals and bolstering the authority of Native American courts in prosecuting crimes on Indian reservations.
Biden released a statement of his own, saying that domestic violence in the United States had fallen by 64 percent since the original law was passed and adding: “I am pleased that this progress will continue, with new tools for cops and prosecutors to hold abusers and rapists accountable.”
The Violence Against Women legislation authorizes funding for a range of programs that help victims of violence and support prosecution of people accused of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The new law also contains provisions dealing with stalking as well as use of spyware and video surveillance equipment.