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Proposed bill extends domestic violence prevention services

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to extend programs to prevent domestic violence and to make them more robust. If passed, the legislation could also help protect Georgia victims of domestic abuse who are getting a divorce or dissolving a civil union.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) amends a 1994 act that sought to aid victims of physical abuse on dates and victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. The amendments would fund two kinds of programs: those that address the problem of sexual assault crime and those that train law enforcement officers and others in the community who work with offenders, to help them recognize individuals who are at high risk for attempting domestic violence homicide.

The bill also prohibits organizations that receive grants under VAWA from discriminating against victims or offenders by denying services to LGBT victims based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In an opening statement about VAWA, the Committee Chair said that "all victims count" and that, "All victims deserve protection." Proponents of the bill argue that domestic violence crosses lines of gender identity and sexual orientation and occurs in heterosexual and LGBT relationships alike. Advocates contend that assistance to victims of crime should not be limited by whether the victim is the same sex as the offender.

The Senate Committee vote to approve VAWA was 10-8 along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor of the bill. Opponents of the bill agree that, while domestic violence prevention services should be available to everyone, there is no evidence of denial of services and, therefore, no amendment to existing law is needed.

Source: Washington Blade, "Senate panel approves LGBT-inclusive domestic violence bill" Chris Johnson, Feb. 2, 2012

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