Friday, July 29, 2011

Rick Perry's gay marriage federalism

Rick Perry recently said that he was fine with letting states decide whether they want to allow gay marriage or not. That's an old fashioned states' rights stance. But what Perry was basically saying was that he was fine with gay marriage as long as your state was able to pass it into law. Obviously that belief is at odds with the GOP's stance on gay marriage. They don't think gay marriage should happen anywhere. Hence this new statement from Perry:

"I probably needed to add a few words after that 'it's fine with me' and that it's fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue," he said. "Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn't changed."

Perry said he supported changing the Constitution in order to ban gay marriage, a position that he characterized as supportive of states' rights even as it would overrule New York's own decision on the matter.

So he still opposes gay marriage, but his dedication to the idea of states' rights trumps his opposition to gay marriage. But even though he thinks states have sovereign rights, he wants to change the constitution to say that states can't allow gay marriage. You follow that?

If you read my blog regularly you probably know that I don't like the states' rights argument. And I don't understand why so many conservatives like it either. If you value people's freeberty (Stephen Colbert's new word combining freedom and liberty), I don't see why you would be willing to take away someone's freeberty simply because a state claims it has the authority to do so. This isn't a new argument. Its why we fought a civli war, because southern states thought the 10th amendment allowed them to have slaves and the federal gov't couldn't tell them otherwise. Or to put it another way, states aren't people and people's rights are more important than a state's rights. And given that fact, a state shouldn't be able to restrict a person's rights (up to a certain point of course).


Perry also seems to believe this because he says he is willing to change the constitution to ban gay marriage. I hate to break it to Mr. Perry, but that would be overriding the sovereignty of states, which he claims is important. If Perry just wanted the constitution changed and didn't bring up this crap about states' rights I would at least admire his dedication to his belief. But he is trying to have the best of both worlds by saying states should decide and we should change the constitution to make the decision for the states.

I think conservatives only embrace federalism and the states' rights argument as a tactic for getting their way on an issue that they can't get their way on at the federal level. They can't get the federal gov't to ban gay marriage or abortion. So they say states should decide because that is the only way they can win on those issues. And when they get a policy victory they know it takes a while to get the federal gov't involved to remedy the issue of them taking away people's rights.

What is interesting is that I rarely, if ever, hear liberals embrace the states' rights argument, even when it could help its cause like on the issue of marijuana. I think that's because as a whole, liberals are dedicated to freeberty whereas conservatives are often dedicated to restricting freeberty. I'll end by saying that even though I'm a supporter of a strong federal gov't, there are limitations as to what the federal gov't should involve itself in. What I would like to see from conservatives like Perry is the acknowledgement that there is also a limit on what states should be able to decide when it comes to people's rights. Because as much of our nation's history has shown, states can restrict freeberty just as easily as the federal gov't can. And no matter which entity is doing the restricting, the effect it has on people is the same.

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