|Wednesday, September 29, 1999||
Volume 65, Issue 27
Cardenas on Parking
Ed De La Garza
The 14th Amendment -- No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunization of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Simply stated, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution says that no person's life, liberty or property may be taken away unfairly. The government has the obligation of advancing civil rights and preventing discrimination. So why is this an issue today? Racism isn't as prevalent as it used to be, right? That may be open to debate, but the amendment doesn't only apply to race. It applies to equal treatment for all -- male and female.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, however, agreed to decide whether victims of rape, domestic abuse or other crimes against women could bring their civil suits to the federal courts. This supposedly conflicts with the idea of a limited federal government. That's not exactly the case these days, is it?
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, allowing victims to sue their attackers for punitive damages, based on the belief that states were not dealing with the epidemic of domestic abuse.
However, in March 1998, a Richmond federal appeals court ruled the act unconstitutional in dismissing a Virginia college student's suit against two fellow students whom she accused of rape. The defendants argued that damages could not be awarded because Congress could not interfere in a state suit. One of these students was given a deferred suspension by Virginia Polytechnic Institute, while the other escaped any form of punishment.
One supposes that arguments against the act stem from the proper belief that Congress should have a limited role in the way states are governed. However, the act gave victims one of the only remaining recourses they had.
No amount of money can ever make up for domestic abuse, but it does allow victims to seek some sort of retribution.