circuit, including our own, has addressed the constitutionality of the VAWA Civil Rights Remedy.
This Court begins its analysis of the VAWA with the four years of congressional hearings and lengthy congressional findings in support of the substantial effect of gender-motivated violence upon interstate commerce.
This Court, like the district court in Doe v. Hartz, concludes that the congressional findings on the scope of the problem of gender-based violence are startling:
. "Violence is the leading cause of injury to women ages 15-44, more common than automobile accidents, muggings, and cancer deaths combined." S. Rep. No. 103-138 at 38.
. "Every week, during 1991, more than 2,000 women were raped and more than 90 women were murdered -- 9 out of 10 by men." Id.
. "Women in the United States are at least three times more likely to become rape victims than their European counterparts." Serial No. 42, Hearing before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice, 102d Cong., 2d Sess., 62 (Feb. 6, 1992).
. "For the past 4 years [prior to 1993], the U.S. Surgeons General have warned that family violence -- not heart attacks or cancer or strokes -- poses the single largest threat of injury to adult women in this country." S. Rep. No. 103-138 at 41-42.
. "Three out of four American women will be victims of violent crimes sometime during their life." H.R. Rep. No. 103-395, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess., Violence Against Women Act of 1993, 25 (Nov. 20, 1993).
The congressional findings also contain a letter, signed by 42 State Attorneys General agreeing that violence against women is a serious national problem and urging passage of the VAWA. In pertinent part, the letter reads: "Our experience as Attorneys General strengthens our belief that the problem of violence against women is a national one, requiring federal attention, federal leadership, and federal funds." Letter from States' Attorneys General, Serial No. 51, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess., Crimes of Violence Motivated by Gender, 35 (Nov. 16, 1993). See also Doe, 929 F. Supp. at 611 (citing similar findings); Hartz, 970 F. Supp. 1375, 1997 WL 354832, at *44-45 (same).
Congress's finding that violence against women is a national problem does not, standing alone, justify its power to enact the VAWA under the Commerce Clause. However, in addition to illuminating the scope of the problem of violence against women, Congress also made detailed findings concerning how gender-motivated violence substantially affects the national economy and interstate commerce. Congress found:
. "Gender-based violence bars its most likely targets -- women -- from full [participation] in the national economy." S. Rep. No. 103-138 at 54.
. Domestic violence alone costs employers an estimated $ 3 to $ 5 billion annually due to absenteeism from the workplace. S. Hrg. 101-939, Pt. 1, 101st Cong., 2d Sess., Women and Violence, 58 (June 20, 1990).
. Estimates suggest "that we spend $ 5 to $ 10 billion a year on health care, criminal justice and other social costs of domestic violence." S. Rep. No. 103-138 at 41.
. "As many as 50 percent of homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence." S. Rep. No. 101-545 at 37.
. "Almost 50 percent of rape victims lose their jobs or are forced to quit in the aftermath of the crime." S. Rep. No. 103-138 at 54.
. Fear of gender-based violence "deters women from taking jobs in certain areas or at certain hours that pose a significant risk of such violence." Id.
. Women often refuse higher paying night jobs in service and retail industries because they fear attack. See id. at 54 n.70; see also, e.g., S. Hrg. 102-369, 102d Cong., 1st Sess., Violence Against Women: Victims of the System, 86 (April 9, 1991) (testimony of Burt Neuborne) (Women "tend to choose their jobs with one eye looking over their shoulder about their safety").
. Fear of gender-motivated violence deters women from using public transportation and thus "acts as a barrier to mobility, particularly for those women who have no alternative to public transportation because of economic constraints." S. Hrg. 101-939, Pt. 1, at 69 (testimony of Helen Neuborne); see also S. Hrg. 102-369 at 2 (statement of Sen. Biden citing survey finding that approximately one-half of the women responding said they never use public transportation after dark).
. "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." S. Rep. No. 103-138 at 54.
Congress summarized these findings, and determined that "crimes of violence motivated by gender have a substantial adverse effect on interstate commerce, by deterring potential victims from traveling interstate, from engaging in employment in interstate business, and from transacting business . . . in interstate commerce . . .." H. Rep. 103-711, 103rd Cong., 2d Sess., Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 385 (Aug. 21, 1994). Accordingly, Congress concluded that its authority to enact the VAWA's civil rights provision "is firmly based on the Commerce Clause . . .." S. Rep. No. 103-138 at 54.
Before proceeding further with the constitutional analysis of the VAWA, it is necessary to emphasize the Court's role in our system of constitutional government. The question before the Court is not whether the VAWA is necessary or whether better solutions to the problem of gender-motivated violence exist. See Seaton, 971 F. Supp. 1188, 1194, 1997 WL 391601, at *7 (whether Congress could have fashioned VAWA to avoid domestic litigation "not appropriately within this court's purview"). That is for Congress to decide. The question before this Court is whether a rational basis exists for concluding that gender-motivated violence affects interstate commerce. And if it does, whether the VAWA is a reasonably adapted means to the intended goal of Congress. Hodel, 422 U.S. at 276.
It is uncontested that violence against women is a "national tragedy" of epidemic proportions, but does it substantially affect interstate commerce?
After carefully reviewing the extensive congressional findings and affording them the deference that the Seventh Circuit has instructed is still required in the post-Lopez era, the Court concludes that there was a rational basis for Congress's conclusions that gender-motivated violence has a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Unlike the Supreme Court in Lopez, this Court has not been asked to "pile inference upon inference" to evaluate the connection between violence against women and interstate commerce -- Congress has meticulously articulated the connection. See Doe, 929 F. Supp. at 614; cf. Lopez, 514 U.S. at 567. It is certainly not irrational for Congress to determine that the nationwide impact on commerce of women withdrawing from the workplace, being deterred from traveling interstate and reducing their consumer expending as a result of gender-motivated violence is at least as substantial as that of excess "home-grown" wheat on an Ohio farm or an Alabama barbeque's refusal to serve African-Americans.
See Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111, 87 L. Ed. 122, 63 S. Ct. 82; Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294, 13 L. Ed. 2d 290, 85 S. Ct. 377 (1964). Moreover, this Court believes that to set aside four years of extensive and well-reasoned congressional findings demonstrating the substantial effect of gender-motivated violence on interstate commerce would be to usurp a constitutional role that the Court was not allotted.
Lake argues that the congressional findings underlying the VAWA are no more than a recast version of the "costs of crime" argument rejected by the Supreme Court in Lopez. Lake goes on to outline the usual parade of horribles -- legislation concerning the extraordinary costs of insomnia on the national economy for example -- and contends that the reasoning offered by Congress "has no logical stopping point" and would extend Congress's power to "an unbounded extreme." Initially, the Court does not agree that the specific congressional findings underlying the VAWA are analogous to the more generic arguments offered by the Government in Lopez. Moreover, the comparison offered by Lake ignores the Seventh Circuit's pronouncement that "congressional findings matter." Wilson, 73 F.3d at 684 ("It is easy enough to imagine congressional findings that, if found rational, could have made Lopez a very different case."). Similarly, Lake's parade of horribles ignores the fact that Congress did not merely conclude that gender-motivated violence has "some effect" on the national economy before enacting the VAWA, Congress found that gender-motivated violence had a "substantial effect on interstate commerce." The Seventh Circuit explained the distinction in this way:
It is easy enough to analyze a finding . . . at the highest level of generality to find it applicable in virtually every situation. But the rational basis test, properly applied, is very different: it requires courts to defer to Congress on a case-by-case basis when Congress's findings reveal a substantial relationship to interstate commerce. Thus the rational basis test, focusing as it does on the substantial nature of the relation to interstate commerce in an individual case, operates at a much lower level of generality.
Id. at 682 n.7.
The Court is mindful of the dangers of permitting Congress to proclaim the extent of its own power. See Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 2 L. Ed. 60. In particular, there is always a risk that Congress will conduct hearings and compile information in an attempt to concoct a rational basis for a statute. Therefore, the role of the courts, as protectors of the Constitution, is to ensure that Congress has a rational basis for its findings. See Hodel, 452 U.S. at 276. Given the extensive compilation of data, testimony and reports, "it is unlikely Congress would spend four years determining the effects of gender-based violence on interstate commerce for the sole purpose of overcoming the rationality test and the Supreme Court's decision in Lopez, especially since Lopez was decided after the congressional hearings and findings began being made." Seaton, 971 F. Supp. 1188, 1194, 1997 WL 391601, at *7. This Court is satisfied that the congressional findings underlying the VAWA should be regarded as more than a mere pretext for congressional authority.
After finding that Congress rationally concluded that the VAWA Civil Rights Remedy regulates activities substantially related to interstate commerce, the Court must next inquire whether Congress chose a regulatory means "reasonably adapted" to a permissible end. Hodel, 452 U.S. at 276; Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241, 259, 13 L. Ed. 2d 258, 85 S. Ct. 348 (1964). Congress enacted the VAWA Civil Rights Remedy after concluding that the state judicial systems were not offering adequate protection from gender-motivated crimes. Congress found -- after reviewing the states' own assessments of their treatment of violence against women -- that "bias and discrimination in the criminal justice system often deprive victims of crimes of violence motivated by gender of equal protection of the laws and the redress to which they are entitled." H.R. Rep. No. 103-711 at 385. Following the well-worn course of enacting legislation designed to protect civil rights inadequately safeguarded by the states, see, e.g., Katzenbach, 379 U.S. 294, 13 L. Ed. 2d 290, 85 S. Ct. 377, Congress created a civil rights remedy for gender-motivated violence. Although the Court is reluctant to conclude that this was the only or even the best method available to Congress to protect the victims of gender-motivated violence, see Seaton, 971 F. Supp. 1188, 1194, 1997 WL 391601, at *7, it is certainly a reasonable means to a worthy goal.
Finally, this Court's discussion of the constitutionality of the VAWA Civil Rights Remedy would not be complete without addressing the federalism-based concerns raised by the Supreme Court in Lopez. In Lopez, the Supreme Court was clearly troubled by what it perceived as the Federal Government encroaching on an area such as criminal law "where States historically have been sovereign." 514 U.S. at 564. Unlike the statute at issue in Lopez, the Civil Rights Remedy provided by the VAWA was not designed to duplicate or usurp the authority of the States. The civil rights provision was designed to redress an area of civil rights violations that were not being adequately protected by the States. The Supreme Court has historically recognized that with respect to civil rights legislation:
The power of Congress in this field is broad and sweeping; where it keeps within its sphere and violates no express constitutional limitation it has been the rule of this Court, going back almost to the founding days of the Republic, not to interfere.