Violence Against Women Act

Topics: United States Constitution, United States Congress, Gonzales v. Raich Pages: 6 (1062 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Violence Against Women Act creates a right to be "free from crimes of

violence" that are gender motivated. It also gives a private civil right of

action to the victims of these crimes. The Senate report attached to the act

states that "Gender based crimes and fear of gender based crimes...reduces

employment opportunities and consumer spending affecting interstate


Sara Benenson has been abused by her husband, Andrew Benenson, since 1978.

Because of this abuse, she sued her husband under various tort claims and

violations under the Violence Against Women Act. Now Mr. Benenson is

protesting the constitutionality of this act claiming that Congress has no

right to pass a law that legislates for the common welfare.

However, Congress has a clear Constitutional right to regulate interstate

commerce. This act is based solely on interstate commerce and is therefore

Constitutional. Because of abuse, Sara Benenson was afraid to get a job

because it would anger her husband. She was afraid to go back to school and

she was afraid to go shopping or spend any money on her own. All three of

these things clearly interfere and affect interstate commerce. Women like

Mrs. Benenson are the reason the act was passed.

There has been a long history of judgements in favor of Congress's power to

legislate using the commerce clause as a justification. For the past fifty

years, Congress's right to interpret the commerce clause has been

unchallenged by the Court with few exceptions. There is no rational reason

for this court to go against the powerful precedents set by the Supreme court

to allow Congress to use the Commerce clause.

In the case of Katzenbach v. McClung, the Court upheld an act of Congress

which was based on the commerce clause, that prohibited segregation. McClung,

the owner of a barbeque that would not allow blacks to eat inside the

restaurant, claimed that his business was completely intrastate. He stated

that his business had little or no out of state business and was therefore

not subject to the act passed by Congress because it could not legislate

intrastate commerce. The Court however, decided that because the restaurant

received some of it's food from out of state that it was involved in

interstate commerce.

The same logic should be applied in this case. Even though Sara Benenson's

inability to work might not seem to affect interstate commerce, it will in

some way as with McClung, thus making the act constitutional. The Supreme

Court had decided that any connection with interstate commerce,as long as it

has a rational basis, makes it possible for Congress to legislate it.

In the United States v. Lopez decision, The Supreme Court struck down the Gun

Free School Zones Act. It's reasoning was that Congress had overstepped it's

power to legislate interstate commerce. The Court decided that this act was

not sufficiently grounded in interstate commerce for Congress to be allowed

to pass it.

The circumstances in this case are entirely different than in the case of

Sara Benenson. For one thing, the Gun Free School Zones Act was not nearly as

well based in the commerce clause as is our case. The Gun act said that

violence in schools kept student from learning and therefore limited their

future earning power. It also said that violence affected national insurance

companies. These connections are tenuous at best and generally too long term

to be considered. However, in the case of Mrs. Benenson, her inability to

work and spend directly and immediately affected interstate commerce.

Therefore, the Lopez decision should not have any part in the decision of

this case.

The Supreme Court, in McCulloch v. Maryland, gave Congress the right to make

laws that are out of their strict Constitutional powers so as to be able to

fulfill one of their Constitutional...
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