Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The New Democratic Apology....Federalism

My post below concerning Governor Rick Perry's actions has stimulated some interesting debate in the Comments, particularly related to why Democrats are suddenly opposed to writing discrimination against gays into state constitutions based on religious objections after their support of people who supported it as gay-supportive and pro-gay in 2004.

The most interesting new excuse for why writing discrimination into state constitutions is legitimate and not antigay is invoking federalism -- as one commentor does:

You say: "Meanwhile, if you can tell me how support of antigay state constitutional amendments fits into the "full inclusion" and "equality" that the Democratic Party platform supposedly promises gays it supports, I'd be most interested in hearing it." Hey Republican, ever heard of "federalism?" Seems you guys forget the concept that is supposedly a core Republican belief when it suits you.

As we all know, the concept of federalism is that of power being divided between a central political authority and its constituent units. In the United States, because of our limited Federal constitution, all powers not specifically outlined within the Constitution itself belong to the states. When used in this context, it would mean that the power to legislate legal rights based on sexual orientation, specifically in relation to marriage, resides with the states and not with the Federal government.

The reason that this appears to be being invoked is as a means of explaining why John Kerry's support of state constitutional amendments limiting or stripping gay rights on the basis of religion is not antigay and is not a violation of the "full inclusion" and "equality" promised by the Democratic Party platform. Apparently, the logic is that the right to regulate marriage has and should always reside with the states; the corollary then would be that each state has the right to treat same-sex relationships as they see fit, including whether or not they recognize those existing in other states. Thus, by this understanding, Kerry's support of the Missouri amendment and proposed Massachusetts amendment, both of which would deny marriage and its rights and benefits to gays, is not antigay or discriminatory; it is simply him supporting the exercise of the right of the state to regulate marriage.

The problem here is that these "federalists" do two things that undercut their argument and purported belief in federalism. First off, they go ballistic when states like Texas try to exercise their right to regulate marriage in exactly the same fashion as Missouri and Massachusetts, calling it and the supporters of it discriminatory and antigay -- when the same was not said of supporters of the Massachusetts and Missouri amendments, like John Kerry.

Second off, and more fatally, they point to the Federal Constitution as a basis for their argument that these amendments are discriminatory and antigay -- despite their having said that, because of "federalism", the right to regulate marriage in all its forms belongs to the states, NOT to the Federal government, and is thus not covered by the Federal Constitution.

I would then say that the bluff of these "federalists" needs to be called. Would they object to a Federal constitutional amendment that simply codifies what they allegedly believe -- that no state is required to grant gays marriage rights or recognize legal relationships between same-sex couples created by another state?

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