Political Theory (Loosely Interpreted): January 2004 Archives

Inconsistency on states' rights


Josh Claybourn has a nice snippet on Democratic candidates' views on states' rights at the end of his comments on Thursday's debate:

"It's interesting that the candidates will support States' rights when it suits them, but run from it when it doesn't. For instance Sen. Edwards was firmly in favor of letting States determine what constitutes marriage, and Dean was more than willing to let States determine their level of gun rights (in spite of the Federal 2nd Amendment). But these same Democrats despise States rights in areas such as abortion where it might harm their position.... These candidates are abandoning the formality in favor of their desired results."

President Bush seemed to indicate a desire that states work these things out on their own (but in the legislature, not in the judiciary), though he also seems to support the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for the states, though it does have the effect on not requiring any state to recognize any other states' laws on the matter. This is clearly so with civil unions. I keep hearing conflicting things on how it deals with a state that legalizes gay marriage under that name.

Al Sharpton had to chime in about how civil rights and human rights shouldn't be left to states. The states' rights mantra is for him a reminder of the pre-Civil War era, when black people weren't treated as legally fully human. I just don't see how that's even the same issue. It may be true that an amendment was necessary to give black people full rights, and therefore the Constitution needed revising. But you could just as easily argue that the Constitution needs to be amended to protect the unborn with rights that they don't legally have right now. Sharpton's comment cuts both ways. If rights need to be guarded at the federal level and not left to states, he thinks that shows an absolute right to abortion that states shouldn't tamper with, but he's also leaving the door open for someone to come in arguing that fetuses have a right to life that shouldn't be left for states to decide and should be enforced at the federal level. I doubt he wants that.



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