Should Blacks Serve on Juries? Should Women Vote? Hell, Let's Just Let States Decide.
On Wednesday, I argued that the national excitement over Obama's support for gay marriage was overblown. A recent Gawker article pointed out that the ABC news coverage made it clear that the President still believes gay marriage should be a state-by-state issue.
Assuming this is true, I have even less respect for President Obama's announcement than I did on Wednesday. Civil rights are not a state-by-state issue. This is, largely, the point of our Constitution: to protect the rights of those who are not the majority; to make sure that unpopular beliefs aren't treated less fairly than those held by the majority.
It absolutely frosts me that even Democratic politicians can get away with saying that states should decide gay rights. Really? Just like states should be able to decide whether women can vote? Just like states should be able to decide whether blacks can marry whites? Just like states should be able to decide whether it's okay to fire someone for being in a wheelchair? No. Because states don't have the right to decide any of those things.
The title of this entry is inflammatory, and deliberately so. Where the U.S. Constitution grants rights that a state does not, the U.S. Constitution supersedes the state law. This is keystone of the way American government is set up: to protect the rights of the few against the preferences and biases of the many. Not to put something as fundamental as a civil right up for a popular vote.
Civil rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution. And President Obama swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Putting our rights up for a state-by-state decision shows little respect for equal rights--and little respect for us as Americans.
5/11/2012 04:23:10 am
What's really infuriating is the thought that the only reason he came out with this is because he knows he needs every vote he can get, and with the growing financial, social, and political power of the gas and lesbians, he needs their votes to help him out. If he'd done this at any other time, I would look at it differently. Maybe I"m just jaded, but politicians are politicians. There's not a sincere bone in their bodies. They want our votes. Period. Now if that gets me what I want, then, yeah, you might have my support. But don't think it's a given.
5/11/2012 04:24:30 am
Self editing.... Gays and Lesbians LOL That's what I get for typing too fast!
5/16/2012 02:05:22 am
Punishing politicians for playing politics is a bit counter-intuitive. Also, Obama has been a champion of LGBT rights. Anyone remember when he repealed DADT? Also-- where has this idea of all or nothing come up? I'd rather make slow progress than none at all. Without Obama, we would have no chance at ACTUAL change. So fuck it, I support him and I will continue to until he stops doing, even if it is a slow, painful process. He has not "sat on his ass for four years" as some claim. Ending a war, preventing a total financial collapse, repairing international relations, promoting women's rights, tackling our education system, I can go on.
5/11/2012 04:30:13 am
No, I agree with you. He's kissing all the ass he can, while pissing off Republicans, to get the votes together to win again. Then he is going to sit on his ass for another 4 years and do absolutely nothing. Even if he wanted to, with a strong Republican Congress, nothing he tries will pass through it. He would have been better off keeping his mouth shut and taking the pension plan he has earned for the rest of his life.
5/11/2012 05:59:45 am
I understand your anger but can you name any other president who has done more for us? If President Obama goes balls to wall there is no-way he will be in for the next four years. I don't want to think of the alternative.... Mitt the homophobic, anti-woman, pro-rich maniac!! Unfortunately politics is about playing and pandering! What do you suppose he do and still be president next term? I am very grateful for my president!
5/11/2012 08:15:00 am
Agree...hey, I'm all for recognition of our civil rights...and it is a big step for a president in office and trying to be re-elected, who comes out in any way shape or form for gay anything! If it gets him more votes, so be it, cause I sure as hell don't wanna go backwards!!! The other alternative scares me...and once he's in for a 2nd term...who knows...I'm remaining cautiously optimistic...
5/11/2012 08:39:15 am
It's definitely a step. But I don't think that acknowledging that Obama's better than Romney means being thrilled with Obama's stance on gay rights. Yeah, Obama's better. A lot better. But he's no champion of LGBTQ equality.
5/11/2012 06:45:15 am
In a democracy the minority ALWAYS loses. That's how it works. And a for changes in the constitution, state by state is how it works too. That is what Obama was referring to in his statement. Eventually, enough states we argue the point that it is unconstitutional and take it to the supreme court, and then and only then will it become part of our constitution. It may take five or ten years, but it will happen.
5/11/2012 08:42:25 am
That's how a pure democracy would work. But we don't have a pure democracy; we have a constitutional democracy, full of checks and balances designed in part to protect the rights of small and/or unpopular groups. We shouldn't have to wait for states to come to their senses any more than interracial couples had to wait. Check out Loving v. Virginia (1967).
5/11/2012 03:36:29 pm
Well, I'm not an expert in Constitutional law, so it's possible I'm misunderstanding the reach of the 14th Amendment (Equal Protection Clause), but I think the Executive branch can only support/recommend/endorse the idea at this point. To elevate the issue to the level of a Federal Civil Rights matter, it has to go through the Legislative or Judicial branches. Either the Supreme Court needs to make a ruling based on the 14th Amendment (as it did with Loving v. Virginia) or Congress has to work it out. I know there are a couple of pathways through Congress--a Constitutional amendment would be one way, but there are 2 or 3 routes other routes I don't fully undersand (DOMA followed one of them). He can urge (order) the Justice Department (Executive branch) to take the lead, or at least join, the fray if a case goes to the Supreme Court. But I'm not sure he just say, "Hey, 14th Amendment. Equal Protection Clause. Do it."
5/12/2012 03:41:47 am
@JR: I didn't mean that the President can wave a magic wand and make gay marriage legal. Yes, it will need to go to the Supreme Court. But if Obama endorsed a view of gay marriage parallel to Loving v. Virginia, he'd be saying something like, "It's an equal protection issue, and it's the Supreme Court's job to interpret the Constitution." But this is not what he said; he said it should be left up to the states. This means that he doesn't think it's a matter of equal protection, but a matter of states' rights, meaning that sexual orientation shouldn't fall under the Equal Protection Clause. Thus, he seems to be endorsing the Scalia/Alito/Roberts view on sexual orientation: that sexual orientation shouldn't be a protected class, and shouldn't receive the kind of strict scrutiny that racial discrimination receives, nor even the intermediate scrutiny that sex discrimination receives. By casting it as a states' rights issue, he *is* taking a stand on the EPC... not one I like.
5/13/2012 08:46:56 am
Before I continue, let me just say that I agree that Obama has been a less than enthusiastic supporter of marriage rights (all lgbt issues, really). I doubt he would've said anything this week had not Biden forced his hand. The more generous interpretation would be that they worked out the plan together--Biden would take the heat, Obama would agree, the Democrats would live to see the next election. I don't know, I wasn't in the White House for those discussions.
5/13/2012 02:10:13 pm
technically we are a democratic republic. Founded on the Athens principle of democracy, with our constitution based on the Spartan constitution. Republicans and their supporters who argue it's up to a sate majority vote are mistaken because our constitution is like yall said it set up to protect us from a mob rule. If we really want to protect LGBT rights it's not the president that we need now but member of the senate and congress to get this done. We need to focu on electing state reps that back our views.
5/11/2012 09:26:36 am
I am with you. This is a great step but it hasn't and will not get us anywhere. His word means nothing if there is no law to back it up. We deserve to have the federal rights that everyone else in this country has. It makes me sick that all of our "groups" have ran with this like its the next best thing. We are in the same situation as we were before. Un equal and we will stay this way until our civil right is no longer a state issue but a federal issue. The right for a state to deny our civil rights is unconstitutional and it should be recognized. Until that day this is a good statement..but not a step forward.
5/12/2012 01:41:04 pm
ok, unless i missed someone else's comment to the same...let's give credit to Vice President Biden! Way to push it Joe!
5/16/2012 02:00:53 am
So just for clarification, you guys are voting for Romney in the fall then?
5/16/2012 05:06:01 am
Heeeells to the NO. Like I said in my 5/9 post: "(1) I voted for President Obama, and expect to do so again; (2) It is awesome that, for the first time in US history, a sitting president has announced his support for gay marriage."
5/16/2012 05:36:23 am
What is anyone but a constituency? I think that it is important to recognize that we elected a president based on his political abilities. It doesn't seem quite fair to then criticize him for being a politician. I have my bones to pick with Obama, I mean, he can't please everyone. But I think that there is entirely way to much gay media bashing his relationship with the LGBT community. I feel like he deserves praise for having a relationship at all.
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