The Senate passed an extension of the Violence Against Women Act by a vote of 78-22. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.
The legislation strengthens federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creates a federal "rape shield law" to prevent offenders from using victims' past sexual conduct against them during trial.
Both the Senate and House passed versions of an extension last year but could not work out their differences before the session ended. The House version didn't contain a provision that would bar agencies that receive federal funding from discriminating against gays and lesbians, or one that would allow undocumented immigrants who faced domestic violence to seek legal status.
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