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Law on rape suits rejected

Dismissing a woman's lawsuit against two Virginia Tech football players, a judge declared unconstitutional a federal law allowing rape victims to sue their attackers for damages.

U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser, in a ruling released Monday, said Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by passing the law.

Christy Brzonkala had said athletes Antonio Morrison and James Crawford raped her in their dormitory suite in 1994.

She became the first woman to sue in federal court under the Violence Against Women Act. Part of the 1994 crime bill, it allows victims of sexual assaults to contend their civil rights were violated and to seek damages.

The defendants had argued that the law gave Congress police powers the Constitution did not intend and that if it were not thrown out, Congress could pass laws permitting any criminal suspect to be dragged into federal court for civil damages.

"Without a doubt, violence against women is a pervasive and troublesome aspect of American life which needs thoughtful attention," Kiser wrote. "But Congress is not invested with the authority to cure all of the ills of mankind."

Kiser already had dropped the university and a third player from the lawsuit.

There was no answer at Brzonkala's home in Fairfax. Her attorney, Eileen Wagner, said they will appeal Kiser's ruling and proceed with lawsuits filed in state courts.

Attorneys for Brzonkala and the Justice Department, which helped defend the law, argued that it had a sound basis in the Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection.

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