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
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
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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