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37 Harv. J. on Legis. 1 (2000)
The Civil Rights Remedy of the Violence against Women Act: A Defense

handle is hein.journals/hjl37 and id is 7 raw text is: ESSAY
In 1994, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to
combat inadequacies in the judicial system's protection of women. In a
1998 decision, the Fourth Circuit held unconstitutional VAWA's Section
13981, which creates a civil rights remedy allowing victims of gender-
motivated violence to sue their attackers in federal or state court. The Su-
preme Court recently granted certiorari to consider the constitutionality
of this remedy. In this Essay, Senator Biden, the chief sponsor of the Vio-
lence Against Women Act, defends the civil rights remedy as a valid exer-
cise of Congress's authority under the Commerce and Equal Protection
Clauses of the Constitution.
In 1990, I first introduced the Violence Against Women Act
in response to the escalating problem of violence against
women-a national tragedy played out every day in the lives
of millions of American women at home, in the workplace, and
on the street.'2 On September 13, 1994, the President signed the
bill into law.3 That signing marked the end of years of careful
consideration and long hearings, fact-finding, and revisions in
support of this important legislation. A vital subtitle of the Act,
the Civil Rights Remedies for Gender-Motivated Violence Act,
creates a new federal civil cause of action that allows a victim of
gender-motivated violence to sue her attacker.4 This provision
was recently held unconstitutional by the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Supreme Court has
* Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Del.) is a fifth-term United States Senator and member of
the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. From 1987 to 1994, Senator Biden
was chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
I S. REP. No. 103-138, at 37 (1993).
2 S. REP. No. 102-197, at 39 (1991).
3 Pub. L. No. 103-322, Title IV, 108 Stat. 1902 (codified as amended in scattered sec-
tions of 8, 18, and 42 U.S.C.). The Violence Against Women Act was passed as part of
the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, popularly known as the
1994 Crime Bill.' For its legislative history, see Victoria F. Nourse, Where Violence,
Relationship, and Equality Meet: The Violence Against Women Act's Civil Rights Rem-
edy, 11 WIs. WOMEN's L.J. 1 (1996).
4 42 U.S.C. § 13981 (1999).

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