On September 14, 1994, in response to and in recognition of the epidemic of violence against women in the United States, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The VAWA is a comprehensive statute designed to provide women greater protection from and recourse against violence and to impose accountability on abusers and those who commit crimes of violence based on gender animus. The VAWA, which contains seven parts, creates new federal crimes, strengthens penalties for existing federal sex crimes, and provides $1.6 billion over six years for education, research, treatment of domestic and sex crime victims, and the improvement of state criminal justice systems. Title III of the Act (civil rights provision) creates a positive statutory right for all individuals to be free from gender-motivated violence and provides a civil remedy so that individuals who have been denied that right can recover damages. In 1994, when Congress passed the VAWA, the United States Supreme Court had not invalidated legislation relying on Congress's Commerce Clause power in nearly sixty years. Soon after the VAWA's enactment, however, Congress's power under the Commerce Clause was restricted by the Supreme Court in United States v. Lopez. In Lopez, the Court struck down the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 (GFSZA), which prohibited “any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.” The Court determined that, in enacting the GFSZA, Congress had exceeded the outer limits of its power under the Commerce Clause. Lopez revived and invigorated the long-running debate over the reach of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause. This Comment focuses on the challenges to the VAWA's civil rights provision and the ongoing debate about how the VAWA will fare in the wake of Lopez.

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