WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law the Violence Against Women Act, formally ending a battle fought in Congress in the last year over controversial changes to the act.
In a public ceremony in Washington, Obama said this year’s legislation expands an act that has altered the culture surrounding domestic violence in America. The bill extends federal aid to gay, immigrant and tribal victims, while adding services for its original beneficiaries and a large voting bloc: women.
Accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, who first introduced the act as a senator 19 years ago, Obama emphasized the bill’s new services.
“We’ll expand them to cover even more women, because this is a country where everybody should be able to pursue their own measure of happiness and live their lives free from fear, no matter who you are, no matter who you love,” Obama said.
The Senate passed the bill on a bipartisan 78 to 22 vote. The House passed it 286-138. White House support for legislation that originated in the Senate was made clear at an early stage.
A primary concern of conservative opponents of the bill had been a provision that changes tribal law to allow tribal courts to try non-natives. Opponents said the change might be unconstitutional. A recent proposal from some House Republicans removed the tribal provision, along with services for lesbian, gay and transgendered victims of domestic violence and other contentious language. A dispute that had been shaping up between the most conservative Republicans and their more moderate colleagues was cut short by a move from House Speaker John Boehner to skip internal debate and bring the legislation to the House floor, where it passed with Democratic and Republican votes.
(Michael A. Memoli of the Tribune Washington Bureau contributed to this report.)
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