United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, 10 (2000)

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Cite as: 529 U. S. 598 (2000)

Opinion of the Court

the establishment of a divorce, alimony, equitable distribution of marital property, or child custody decree."

Every law enacted by Congress must be based on one or more of its powers enumerated in the Constitution. "The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written." Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 176 (1803) (Marshall, C. J.). Congress explicitly identified the sources of federal authority on which it relied in enacting 13981. It said that a "Federal civil rights cause of action" is established "[p]ursuant to the affirmative power of Congress . . . under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, as well as under section 8 of Article I of the Constitution." 42 U. S. C. 13981(a). We address Congress' authority to enact this remedy under each of these constitutional provisions in turn.

II

Due respect for the decisions of a coordinate branch of Government demands that we invalidate a congressional enactment only upon a plain showing that Congress has exceeded its constitutional bounds. See United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S., at 568, 577-578 (Kennedy, J., concurring); United States v. Harris, 106 U. S., at 635. With this presumption of constitutionality in mind, we turn to the question whether 13981 falls within Congress' power under Article I, 8, of the Constitution. Brzonkala and the United States rely upon the third clause of the section, which gives Congress power "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."

As we discussed at length in Lopez, our interpretation of the Commerce Clause has changed as our Nation has developed. See 514 U. S., at 552-557; id., at 568-574 (Kennedy, J., concurring); id., at 584, 593-599 (Thomas, J., concurring). We need not repeat that detailed review of

607

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