Politics is a world where duplicity reigns, as both sides of the political aisle repeatedly attempt to steal each other’s issues or philosophies.
One philosophy which recently has become the subject of a tug-of-war of sorts is that of states rights. Republicans, generally, have been known for some time as strong advocates for the self-governance of the states, while Democrats have gained renown for their support of an ever-growing federal government that dominates the citizenry.
But, with the explosion of the gay marriage fight, specifically over the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution (FMA), many liberals suddenly have become states-rights advocates. On no other issue in recent memory can I recall the Democrats’ ardent invocation of the states-rights argument — none.
(Of course many observers will argue — and argue well — that several Republicans also have changed their tune on states rights in the debate over gay marriage. I disagree — not because I’m a blind partisan supporter of the GOP but because the conservative fight against gay marriage is much more complex than that and because far too many proponents of gay marriage drag out the conservatives-turning-their-backs-on-states-rights argument as a red herring. But all of this is a discussion for another time.)
The Left, of course, does not actually believe in states rights, but several leading liberals fighting the FMA have used such an argument, expecting the media and fellow liberals to look the other way and conservatives to cower in fear of looking like two-faced politicians.
Here are just a few examples of leading Democrats using this argument that’s quite new to them:
Sen. John Kerry (Mass.):
- ??¢â???¬?????While I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, for 200 years, this has been a state issue. I oppose this election year effort to amend the Constitution in an area that each state can adequately address, and I will vote against such an amendment if it comes to the Senate floor.
??¢â???¬?????I believe the best way to protect gays and lesbians is through civil unions. I believe the issue of marriage should be left to the states, and that the President of the United States should be addressing the central challenges where he has failed — jobs, health care, and our leadership in the world rather than once again seeking to drive a wedge by toying with the United States Constitution for political purposes.??¢â???¬
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.; Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee):
- I oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment because it interferes in a fundamental State matter. . . .
[T]he proponents of this amendment are seeking to define marriage for the States, whether they like it or not. . . .
I do not understand how anyone could support this amendment if they believe in the rights of States, the integrity of the Constitution or in fundamental fairness.
Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass; Member of the Judiciary Committee):
- The proposed amendment would prohibit states from deciding these important issues for themselves.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.; Member of the Judiciary Committee):
- First, the issue of marriage and domestic law has always been one under the purview of the states — not of the federal government. And throughout this nation’s history, the states have proven entirely capable of dealing with this issue. . . .
Marriage has always been, and should continue to be, an issue that is considered, debated and controlled by states, localities, and religious leaders.
Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.; Member of the Judiciary Committee):
- The regulation of marriage in our country has traditionally been a matter for states and religious institutions and should remain so. No one — including witnesses who have testified at the prior hearings — has shown that there is a need for federal intervention.
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.; Member of the Judiciary Committee):
- We owe it to the Constitution which we have sworn to uphold to think long and hard about whether the tradition of state authority establishing the standards for marriage should be pre-empted by the federal government.
Sen. John Edwards (N.C.; Member of the Judiciary Committee):
- Marriage is left to the states today, and should remain with the states.
Terry McAuliffe (Chairman of the Democratic National Committee):
- The DNC has already declared its opposition to this amendment, which legal experts from both ends of the political spectrum have acknowledged would be used to repeal hundreds of laws enacted by state legislatures to provide basic benefits and rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Americans. According to a recent ABC News Poll, only 20% of Americans favor this anti-gay amendment. Even Vice President Dick Cheney, former conservative Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson (WY) believe that the issue of civil marriage equality is one for the states.