Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Gay Marriage - State Right or Federal Prerogative?

Welcome to Tony Island Blog!

Today, we're going to examine the 500lb gorilla in the room - gay marriage; but, we're not going to discuss the moral issues surrounding this highly touchy subject, simply (ha!) the political dynamics surrounding this issue.

For many Republican presidential hopefuls, "states' rights" is a key issue this campaign season: devolve Federal power back to the states and let the states decide their own fates. All is well and good until the issue of gay marriage comes up. Here, the hopefuls make a 180 and decide that the Federal government must be involved and it must be a Federal law or Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

A typical explanation from the hopefuls is Mitt Romney's. Romney is fearful that one state won't recognize another state's legal gay marriage (ie, if a gay married couple move from New York to Utah, they'd be in legal limbo) and thus a Federal gay marriage ban needs to be in place.

So which is it - is this issue a states' right issue or a Federal issue? If the people of New York, properly assembled in a legislative body, have voted to allow gays to marry with all rights and privileges of straight couples, why is the Federal government involved? If the people of Massachusetts have allowed a judicial body to determine that gays should be allowed to marry, why is the Federal government involved? Are these issues covered by the 14th Amendment that compels the Federal government to be involved? Are states sovereign bodies or merely political extensions of the Federal government?

Let's not get hung up on the moral issue of gay marriage. While that issue is deep enough, there is a far more important issue at stake here - when do the people of individual sovereign states have the right to determine the fate of the citizens within their jurisdiction? Which issues does the Federal government belong in - voting rights? Gay marriage? Equal Rights for Women?

Where does it end? And what power should the Federal government have over these issues? We saw what happened in the 1950s-'70s when the Federal government intervened in state school systems on behalf of minority representation in schools. How much damage did that do to our public school systems? Was it all worth it?

So the issue today is not the morality of gay marriage, but the more important issue of state vs federal jurisdiction. Do we hand over more of our sovereignty to the Federal government? Or do we take a stand on states' rights?

What are your thoughts? Please share your thoughts on the political, not moral, issue surrounding gay marriage. Who has jurisdiction and why?

Thanks for reading Tony Island Blog!

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