Saturday, July 10, 2010

State's Rights supporters cheer (weakly) court's gay marriage ruling

A judge’s decision on Thursday declaring that a state law allowing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts should take precedence over a federal definition of marriage has exposed the fractures and fault lines among groups working to bolster states’ rights.

The decision, by Judge Joseph L. Tauro of United States District Court in Boston, supports and echoes a central tenet of the Tea Party, 9/12 and Tenth Amendment movements, all of which argue that the authority of the states should trump Washington in most matters not explicitly assigned by the Constitution to the federal government.

Congress, the judge said, had infringed on a question that was the province of local voters and legislators.

But in using the argument to support gay marriage in Massachusetts, where the case arose, the judge created an awkward new debating point within the less-government movement about where social goals and government policy intersect, or perhaps collide.

Some people involved in the campaigns to limit Washington’s reach cheered what they said was a states’ rights victory.

“The Constitution isn’t about political ideology,” said Michael Boldin, the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, a group based in Los Angeles. “It’s about liberty, and limiting the government to certain divisive issues — I applaud what I consider a very rare ruling from the judiciary.”

Others, like Steve V. Moon, a software programmer and founder of, a group founded in Utah in 2008, said the judge’s decision was both right and wrong.
Read the rest here.

For the record, I concur with the narrow rational in the court's decision. It's a state's rights issue. The Feds should mind their own business.


intellectualoid said...

Your "states' rights" approach seems to me to miss the point.
The feds in DOMA defined marriage for purpose of federal benefits. It says nothing about the status for purposes of Massachusetts law of gay couples. To let Massachusetts gay couples demand federal benefits despite the federal definition allows Massachusetts (its Supreme Court, actually) to commandeer a part of the federal budget.
And it raises the specter of 50 different schemes for who gets federal benefits here versus there - the sort of specter the Obama adminisration is supposedly resisting by suing Arizona over Arizona's "get tough on illegal immigrants" law.
Or maybe you're not missing the point. Maybe you're trying to dissolve the federal government in a sea of complexity, so they stop giving benefits, tax breaks, etc. and just go home.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

There are already 50 different schemes in place defining who is an who is not eligible for marriage benefits because each state has their own laws defining marriage. The bottom line is that the Constitution no where gives authority to Congress to make any definition of marriage, period. Congress may, if it wishes, end Federal benefits and tax breaks based on marital status. But they can not define marriage in any way other than how the states choose to.

gdelassu said...

I concur with the narrow rational in the court's decision. It's a state's rights issue.

I do not really disagree with you on this point. One can make a plausible argument that the constitution does not give the feds the power to intrude on this question at all. That said, I am surprised that the first ruling that the DOMA is unconstitutional was founded on equal protection grounds. I would have thought that the really obvious constitutional problem with the DOMA is its violation of the full-faith-and-credit clause of the constitution.

I am sickened at the idea of marriage being redefined like this, but considered merely as a constitutional question, I think that there is no doubt that the DOMA is not constitutionally valid. We must all pray for a conversion of hearts and minds if we are to prevent the rot encroaching on our society here. The federal government cannot save us from the pollution.