ACLU Letter Urging Members of the House of Representatives to Vote in Favor of the Velasquez Domestic Violence Amendment

July 12, 2007

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July 12, 2007




Dear Representative:


On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonpartisan public interest organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of individuals, and its hundreds of thousands of activists, members and fifty-three affiliates nationwide, we urge you to support the Velazquez domestic violence amendment to H.R. 1851, the Section Eight Voucher Reform Act of 2007 (SEVRA).  The Amendment requires public housing agencies selected for participation in the Housing Innovation Program to comply with voucher and public housing domestic violence provisions established in the Violence Against Women Act.


Through its Women’s Rights Project, founded in 1972 by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ACLU has long been a leader in legal battles to ensure women’s full equality.  This commitment includes fighting for equal housing opportunities for women and working to protect the rights of battered women.  Moreover, in recent years, the ACLU has taken a leading role at the local, state, and national levels in working to ensure safety and improve access to housing opportunities for survivors of domestic violence and their children.


It is well known that landlords often react to domestic violence by evicting the victim of violence. Survivors of domestic violence or stalking who live in public or subsidized housing gained much needed protections from this kind of discrimination when the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA) became law on January 5, 2006 and the ACLU offered its strongest support for these provisions.


Before passage of VAWA, too many ACLU clients had lost public or subsidized housing as the result of reporting domestic abuse to the police, seeking civil protection orders against their abusers, or taking other steps to end the violence in their lives. This was not only unjust, but also sent the pernicious message that battered women must keep their abuse secret or lose their homes. Today, VAWA ensures that battered women in public or subsidized housing will not risk homelessness when they seek help to end a violent relationship.


The Section 8 Housing Voucher Reform Act of 2007, now under consideration by the House of Representatives, contains several important reforms of the subsidized housing system.  However, this bill must not permit the erosion of critical protections Congress put in place less than two years ago.  Instead, this Congress should make explicit that the VAWA protections apply to public housing authorities that participate in the Housing Innovation Program and that women’s rights cannot be bargained away.



VAWA fills an important need, granting housing security to low-income survivors of domestic violence otherwise faced with the impossible choice between living in terror at home and living homeless on the streets.  The House of Representatives should continue its support and protection of survivors of domestic violence by voting “yes” on the Velazquez amendment during consideration of HR 1851.


Thank you for your consideration.


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Caroline Fredrickson,  
Director, Washington Legislative Office                        

Vania Leveille
Legislative Counsel

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