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House votes to reauthorize lapsed Violence Against Women Act, revive Equal Rights Amendment

The House on Wednesday voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in 2019 after the Republican-led Senate declined to take up the measure. The vote was 244 to 172, with 29 Republicans joining the Democrats to reauthorize the law. President Biden introduced the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1990, and a version of it was enacted in 1994. It was reauthorized three times, most recently in 2013, with support from 23 Senate Republicans and 87 House Republicans.

The legislation, which aims to curb domestic and sexual violence and support its survivors, now heads to the Senate, where it faces a tougher fight. Many Republicans, and the National Rifle Association, object to provisions in the new law that prevent people convicted of misdemeanor stalking from purchasing firearms and close what Democrats call the “boyfriend loophole” to a domestic violence violence provision for spouses. Some Republicans also oppose including transgender women in an expansion of protections that also covers Native American and immigrant women.

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The House also voted 222-204 to revoke a lapsed deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA had been approved by only 35 states, not the necessary 38, when a deadline set by Congress expired in 1982, but Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the constitutional amendment in January 2020. If the Senate approves the House measure and Biden signs it, the courts will likely ultimately decide if that passes muster or ERA supporters have to start over again.