Saturday, November 06, 2004

Federalism: Where to Draw the Line?

Recently, Andrew Sullivan has been extolling the virutes of federalism in the context of gay marriage.

I certainly see some value in a strong sense of federalism. States should have the right to determine individually where they stand on laws and regulations around such matter luxury taxes, speed limits, drug control, prostitution. But where do you draw the line with what the states can decide? I draw it at human rights. I draw it at anything that contradicts the Constitution, which I know may be open to interpretation at some points.

Was federalism really the answer to slavery and segregation? Not if you're interested in preserving the union. Given the levels of federalism Sullivan seems to be advocating, wouldn't such federalism simply lead to the increased balkanization of our *united* states. Couldn't states successfully isolate themselves so their citizenry wouldn't be challenged by the changes in beliefs occurring around them?

Seems there has to be a strict balance; otherwise (and I'm mostly joking), wouldn't Alabama practically be a separate country by now? I mean how long should segregation have been allowed to exist in the South? How long should gays have their rights withheld from them?

Like Sullivan, I agree that the states should be able to do their own thing, but only *for now.* Perhaps unlike Sullivan, I'd celebrate the day when the Supreme Court tells all 50 states that they have to scrap their discriminatory state amendments and adhere the principles inherent in the United States Constitution.

Of course, we may not have to worry about that any time soon, considering the sort of Supreme Court nominees Bush is likely to proffer.

But if the Supreme Court ever does come down in favor of gay marriage, we won't be suffering under the actions of radical judges. We'll simply benefit as a society from an enlightened judiciary and from the wisdom of a Constitution that already provides us with freedoms some of us simply don't believe we have all the right to.

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