Thursday, June 17, 2010

VAWA Includes Same-Sex Relationships

Great news! The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) now explicitly applies to domestic violence cases that occur in same-sex relationships. Although VAWA never excluded same-sex couples when it was first passed by congress in 1994, the recent memorandum from the Justice Department now clearly interprets VAWA as including violence perpetrated in gay and lesbian relationships, in addition to heterosexual ones.

David J. Barron, the acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department, argued in his memorandum that the language of VAWA offers protection even when the victim and the offender are of the same sex, and that federal prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions listed in VAWA regardless of the sex of the victim or the offender. In fact, even though the act is called the Violence Against Women Act, the language of VAWA is gender-neutral - - using terms like “intimate partner”, “dating partner”, “spouse” and “another person”.

This is an important decision for gay couples. The New York Times quotes Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel of a gay and lesbian advocacy group called the Human Rights Campaign, as saying: “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.”

To learn more you can read the memorandum or read about same-sex abuse on

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