WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has decided that federal prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act in cases involving gay and lesbian relationships, a newly disclosed memorandum shows.
In a seven-page legal analysis, David J. Barron, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, concluded that federal prosecutors may use the law in cases of interstate stalking and domestic violence regardless of whether the victim or the defendant is a man or a woman.
“The text, relevant case law and legislative history all support the conclusion” that the law’s criminal provisions “apply when the offender and the victim are the same sex,” Mr. Barron wrote.
The memorandum was addressed to the acting deputy attorney general, Gary Grindler, who had apparently asked the Office of Legal Counsel to consider the question. The document was posted on the Justice Department’s Web site on Wednesday.
Tracy Schmaler, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said that the office’s conclusion had been sent as guidance to federal prosecutors around the country.
Ms. Schmaler said she could not answer questions about the context of the request because it was a matter of internal deliberations.
But Brian Moulton, the chief legislative counsel of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian advocacy group, said his group asked the Obama transition team after the 2008 election to have the office “clarify” for prosecutors that the Violence Against Women Act covers violence that might arise in same-sex relationships.
“It’s a step towards equality and recognizing that our relationships exist and are subject to the same sorts of issues that face other committed couples,” Mr. Moulton said. “Unfortunately, sometimes that is domestic violence and other issues that need to be dealt with through the criminal justice system.”
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