Congress • Protections for gays, tribes added; all GOP members of Utah delegation vote no.
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Washington • The House approved an extension of the Violence Against Women Act, the nation's landmark anti-domestic violence law, accepting on Thursday the version pushed by Democrats in the Senate, which included new protections for the gay community and Native American tribes.
Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson was the only Utahn who supported the final bill, though the state's three Republican members supported an alternative version, which came up short.
"I think domestic violence is a pretty serious problem in our country and I think it is important that we address this issue as aggressively as we can," Matheson said. "I think the Senate bill was the more aggressive of the two."
The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 78 to 22, with Utah's GOP senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee opposing the bill. The House approved it Thursday on a vote of 286 to 138, with all of the Democrats supporting it, along with 87 Republicans.
The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. It gives tribes more authority to prosecute non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations. It also allows abuse victims who are gay to access certain grant programs and services and it includes sexual orientation on a list of underserved populations.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, the state's newest House member, said he supports the goal of the bill and backed the Republican alternative, but like most House Republicans, he voted against the final version.
"Ultimately I believe domestic violence enforcement and reduction is best handled by state and local governments," he said.
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