One Billion Rising sees victory as House approves Violence Against Women Act

The One Billion Rising movement organized a flash mob at the Grand Traverse Mall for Valentine's Day to urge Congressman Dan Benishek to support the Violence Against Women Act

The U.S. House of Representatives approved an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday that includes new protections for gay men and lesbians.

The Senate approved the legislation in January and President Obama has said he will sign the legislation as soon as it hits his desk.

President Obama and Vice President Biden have praised the legislation.

"Renewing this bill is an important step toward making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear," Obama said in a statement.

When originally passed in 1994, the Violence Against Woman Act authorizes funding for programs that help prosecute sexual assault and domestic abuse cases and assist the victims of the crimes. The original law expired in September 2011 and stalled in the house because of objections to specific protections.

Locally, the One Billion Rising demonstrations have been seen in Traverse City. The demonstrations are flash-mob dance-offs and aim to start the conversation in a "non-threatening" format.

The most recent demonstration took place at the Grand Traverse Mall on Valentine's Day and was a "call to action" for Congressman Den Benishek to support the legislation. Nearly 300 women were involved.

Benishek told 7&4 News that it was "good to see" people playing an active role in their government."

"As a father, grandfather and doctor, I supported this legislation last year and look forward to support again this week."

Congressmen Benishek and Camp both voted in favor of the legislation, while Congressman Huizenga voted against the measure.

The One Billion Rising organization celebrated the approval on their Facebook page, saying "We did it! The Senate version passed - we have the law we need! Thank you, everyone who made their voices heard. We are still rising."

The bill authorizes up to $660 million each year, 17-percent less than the last time the act was re-authorized, for the next five years for the programs.