GOP Tramples on States’ Rights

by Laura Bramble on March 19, 2012

The GOP has long argued that states have a much greater ability to decide issues that concern its citizens than the federal government does and that the federal government should not usurp a state’s ability to make these decisions. They believe this to be part of the original intent of our Founding Fathers. In fact, the sovereignty of states’ rights and the expansion of these rights are important planks in the platforms of all four 2012 GOP presidential candidates. These candidates believe that states should have the right to decide on major issues such as education, abortion, environmental concerns, health care and energy development without federal interference. Yet, the GOP and House Speaker John Boehner are currently leading a charge AGAINST states’ rights.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which passed in 1996, prohibits the federal government from recognizing any marriage that is not between a man and a woman and allows states to refuse to honor any marriage that does not fit that category, even if legally executed in another state. This has been used to deny benefits to federal employees and military personnel who are part of a same-sex marriage, even if they live and work in a state that recognizes their marriage, as well as by states to refuse spousal rights to citizens of other states. This law has been shot down in numerous court cases as unconstitutional and the Obama Administration has refused to defend any court challenges to the law due to its unconstitutional nature.

The Senate voted to repeal the law in 2011, but so far the GOP-controlled House has refused to do so. In fact, under John Boehner it has gone one step further. It has taken up defending the law in court cases and is currently doing so in several cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA.

Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriage and the constitutionality of DOMA, you must recognize this for what it is—an infringement of states’ rights. By using DOMA to refuse to practically recognize marriages a state’s citizens and governments have chosen to legally endorse, the federal government is telling those states and its citizens that they do not have the right to decide on their own what a marriage is and who they can extend it to. DOMA also gives some states more rights than others by allowing them to negate and ignore the rights of citizens of those states that choose to permit same-sex marriage.

By defending this law, the GOP is saying states do not have the right to decide on this issue– an issue with much less social and economic impact than many of the states’ rights issues currently being promoted by the GOP and its presidential candidates. This is hypocritical at the very least, since it goes against the very cause of states’ rights the party champions; the fact that it is in defense of a law that promotes unconstitutional discrimination makes it even worse. Yet again, the GOP is showing its true colors here– that when it comes to socially conservative hot button issues, constitutional rights do not matter and it is more than willing to trample on the rights of all to force its narrow social agenda.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

mmm April 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Yes states rights should trump all!


Ligia Archila Serrano April 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Piensen bien cuando escriban aquí y reflexionen que los republicanos no traen nada bueno al mundo. NO ME GUSTAN. ARRIBA BARACK OBAMA CON DIGNIDAD, CAPACIDAD Y HONRADEZ.


Ligia Archila Serrano April 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I think US President Obama will continue as the President of USA.


Ligia Archila Serrano April 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm

De lo que queda de los republicanos a la fecha es la amarga experiencia mundial de las Guerras de los Bush, consulvionaron a todo el mundo. Con Barack Obama la paz vuelve. Así que siga de Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América.


John Butler April 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Your country is in a sad predicament if it cannot separate religion and the state. All sorts of nutters spouting religion will crawl out of the woodwork and receive credibility; Romney belongs to what is, in essence, a cult, albeit a cult with a very large membership, and you elect him at your peril. Obama brought tolerance, class, vision and intelligence to an office which sadly lacked all of these before he came along, and to exchange him for a wolf in religious sheep’s clothing would be folly. And don’t forget what John Stuart Mill said– to paraphrase– “Not all conservatives are stupid, but a lot of stupid people are conservative.”


Thomas Goldsmith Oppenheimer April 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Obama brought tolerance, class, vision and intelligence? You have been drinking the Kool-Aid. Apologizing to everyone and renouncing one’s own country doesn’t qualify as tolerant, classy, or intelligent to me. I will confess that he has a vision – of a doormat country that gives away the farm on the hope and a prayer that taking things from people and giving them to others is the secret to prosperity. It’s a vision, but so is the hallucination that one has after dropping acid.


Thomas Goldsmith Oppenheimer March 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Though the same-sex ‘union’ issue tends to incite people on religous grounds, the issue isn’t inherently about religion at all. Laura’s point is that the federal government shouldn’t champion states’ rights in principle, then actively campaign against states having the ability to assert their rights. I agree with her on that principle – and not much else.
I don’t care even a little about gay people living together, and I really don’t care a whole lot about any two people being afforded perks for deciding to commt to one another. (I should add that I do object to the union of same sex couples being labeled as marriage, but that objection is really about appropriate use of language. Marriage, as a term, has been intended to mean heterosexual couples for centuries, and usage does denote the meaning of a word. If that usage changes over time, so be it, but I don’t think it should be legislated.)
Larger than that is the idea that same sex couples shouldn’t be punished for their orientation – their punishment being the exclusion from access to benefits that are afforded male-female unions. Larger still is whether the federal government should intervene solely because they are afraid of what the states might decide to do.


Anonymous March 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Pardon me but this post does not mention religion once. Please reread the post– the point is the GOP and its presidential nominees promoting states’ rights while simultaneously defending an arguably unconstitutional law that disregards the validity of a state’s rights in regard to marriage and how to define it.

In regard to Roe vs. Wade (as an example), it is Ron Paul’s stated position to turn decisions about abortion law to states in the hope states will choose to individually outlaw abortion (check his website). When it comes to abortion, states can be trusted to make decisions but not marriage? How is that not hypocritical (which is the point of the article)?


Erik the Red March 20, 2012 at 11:28 pm


Ron Paul’s stance on how gay marriage is to be handled is the same as it is with abortion. He is not among the hypocrtical you point out. You may not agree with him, but he is consistent across the board. And has been for decades. He argues that, by taking such issues as abortion out of the Fed’s hands, a decision like Roe v Wade could be overturned overnight.

The Constitution is not merely a “guideline” of how govt should be run, but is the “way” govt is to be run (and NOT be run). It is just as relevant today as when it was penned in 1787, if not more so.


Anonymous March 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm

But has he talked about repealing DOMA? No, he hasn’t…


Anonymous March 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm

You mention GOP trampling over states rights yet, you only mention 1 issue. RELIGION.
You make no sense when our founding fathers were quite clear regarding the separation of church and state. So why you are making this an issue only you know. The states should make many of the choices the GOP are recommending. The federal government should not get invloved in border wars they should not get involved in healthcare. They can’t even deliver the mail profitably. They should let the health insurance cos. cross state lines for policy sales. That way you have some 400 insurance companies competeing for business. Please get past the Religion issue. We had 8 years of Bush with 6 of the 8 years a Republican congress and republican senate. Did he ever mention overturning Roe vs. Wade, abortion etc. Is it still not in effect. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Drink beer it;s better for you


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