Judge Upholds VAWA Provision Calling Gender-Motivated Crime a Civil Rights Violation
U.S. Judge James Jarvis, of the Eastern District of Tennessee, has upheld the constitutionality of the civil rights provision of the federal Violence Against Women Act. The provision makes gender-motivated crime, such as spousal abuse, a civil rights violation. Congress used its power under the interstate commerce clause to pass the legislation. After four months of hearings, Congress found in 1994 "that gender-based crimes and fear of gender-based crimes restrict movement, reduce employment opportunities, increase health expenditures, and reduce consumer expending, all of which affect interstate commerce and the national economy [and that about half of rape victims lost their jobs or were forced to quit after the crime]." Jarvis made the ruling in the case Laurel Knuckles Seaton v. Kenneth Marshall Seaton; Laurel Knuckles has sued her estranged husband for compensatory and punitive damages of $40 to $87 million. Knuckles claims that her husband repeatedly mentally and physically abused her and thus violated her civil rights.
In 1996, another U.S. District Judge found in Doe v. Doe that the provision satisfied the "rational basis" test required for Congress to pass the legislation under the interestate commerce clause. The Doe case also involved a woman whose husband allegedly repeatedly beat and threatened to kill her. In another case, Jane Doe v. Father Gerald Hatz, a third U.S. District Judge also upheld the provision's constitutionality. That case involved a woman who alleges that a church bishop groped and kissed her when she entered church for evening service. Only Judge Jackson Kiser, chief judge for the Western District of Virginia, has ruled that the provision is not constitutional because Congress exceeded its power. The case, Brzonkala v. Virginia Tech, involves a student who accused two football players of raping her. The decision is on appeal to the 4th Circuit. The Supreme Court is expected to hear a case challenging the provision at some point in the near future.
12/11/2013 Human Rights Day Celebrated Around The World - Yesterday marked International Human Rights Day, a day to celebrate human rights advances and to assess the challenges that lie ahead in protecting them.
"The fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights are largely in place: these include a strong and growing body of international human rights law and standards, as well as institutions to interpret the laws, monitor compliance and apply them to new and emerging human rights issues," said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement. . . .
12/11/2013 UConn Under Federal Investigation For Mishandling Sexual Assault Cases - The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed the University of Connecticut on Monday that it will investigate the school for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases and violating Title IX, the federal law that requires all recipients of federal financial assistance for education programs and activities to prohibit sex discrimination and sexual harassment [PDF].
The investigation was sparked after seven women filed a formal complaint in October alleging that UConn had failed to protect them from sexual assault and exposed them to a sexually hostile environment.One woman says her attacker was expelled from campus but later readmitted without her knowledge. . . .
12/11/2013 Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark Wins Congressional Seat - Democrat Katherine Clark will become the fifth woman to represent Massachusetts in the US House Tuesday, after easily defeating three opponents in a special election.
"Six years ago, there wasn't a single woman representing Massachusetts in Congress," said Niki Tsongas, the only other woman representing Massachusetts in the House. . . .