WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act into law on Thursday, formalizing an update to the anti-domestic violence bill that was more than a year in the making.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Betty McCollum, the Minnesota delegation’s two Democratic women, and Sen. Al Franken attended the signing ceremony, where Obama, Vice President (and original VAWA author) Joe Biden and domestic abuse prevention advocates praised the legislation.
“Women all across the United States were paying attention to whether or not the Congress was going to protect their lives,” McCollum said. “It was a bipartisan effort and I was very, very pleased to be here today to see this happen.”
VAWA technically expired last year, but lawmakers never negotiated a compromise between House and Senate versions of the bill. This final legislation, with Klobuchar as a co-sponsor, originated in the Senate, where it passed in mid-February.
The House eventually approved the Senate bill last week, signing off on language expanding the law’s protections to gays and lesbians and Native American women, who for the first time will have the chance to bring non-natives accused of abusing them to tribal court. It also included anti-stalking language from Klobuchar and Franken provisions relating to rape kit availability and the rights of women at federally-subsidized housing.
“This is a good feeling today,” Franken said. “I think you saw a lot of a emotion from a lot of different people who saw this as a very important day, especially the tribal community. You saw how emotional that was for them.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.