Same-Sex Marriage Rally (Photo credit: City of West Hollywood)
Last week, President Obama made history when he publicly announced his support for same-sex marriage. As the first sitting president to support marriage equality, Pres. Obama has quintessentially made marriage equality a valid election issue. However, the republican response was swift yet contradictory. The position of the Republican Party is that marriage is a states’ rights issue. States’ Rights, in U.S. politics, refers to political powers reserved for the individual state governments rather than the federal government guaranteed under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As a result, prominent republicans, including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have openly criticized Pres. Obama’s support for same-sex marriage during an election year as a political attempt to federalize the issue of marriage.
Conversely, prominent republicans, including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, also support amending the U.S. Constitution, which would ban same-sex marriage in all 50 states outright. The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) would limit marriage in the United States to unions of one man and one woman:
“Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman”
The FMA was previously attempted in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2008 and eventually failed each time. Nevertheless, advocating a constitutional amendment carrying out a federal definition of marriage is fundamentally federalizing the issue. As such, the individual states would no longer have the authority to define marriage as they see appropriate, which violates the states-rights position traditionally advocated by the Republican Party.
Does the government of the United States of America have the authority to execute its own citizens via assassination, without a crime actually being committed and without a trial? The 5th amendment does not think so. The 5th Amendment guarantees “no loss of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” In other words, it is unconstitutional for the government to execute or incarcerate someone in the absence of an actual trial taking place. Nevertheless, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and, according to the U.S. federal government, a reported member and recruiter for al-Qaeda was assassinated under the direction of the CIA. I have no doubt that very few Americans will shed tears over the death of al-Awlaki, yet that does not change the fact that the U.S. government has no visible proof that al-Awlaki was anything more than a crazy militant ideologue. Declaring him a terrorist is simply not enough to warrant an execution without due process according to our own U.S. Constitution. In fact, republican presidential candidate, Ron Paul, is calling the assassination of Al-Awlaki’s by the U.S. government “an impeachable offense,” and I certainly agree.
Ignoring the constitution is nothing new. The 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts made it illegal to criticize then-President John Adams. At the onset of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, allowing protestors and rioters to be arrested and held without formal charges. During World War I, censorship of all communications moving in or out of the United States was authorized. During World War II the internment of Japanese-Americans was authorized by direct order of the president. Civil liberties were even restricted in the 1950s when Sen. Joseph McCarthy accused American citizens of Communist Party affiliation during the Cold War.
Ignoring the constitution is always easy when the situation in question involves an extremely unpopular individual. Nonetheless, the U.S Constitution does not limit civil liberties to those that are deemed popular or worthy. After all, is not the foundation of our greatness the U.S. Constitution and the liberties it guarantees? What does it say when we, as a society, merely treasure the principle of civil liberty in theory, but discarded it for the sake of convenience in practice? Are the civil liberties outlined in the U.S. Constitution merely words on a piece of paper?
According to Article II of the U.S Constitution, the President of the United States of America must be: a natural born citizen of the United States; at least 35 years old; and have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least 14 years. However, there has currently existed a controversy, mainly among tea party conservatives, regarding the legitimacy of Obama’s citizenship. Some believe President Obama was born outside the U.S. and consequently ineligible to hold the office.
This past Sunday, Speaker of the House John Boehner was asked directly by the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether he believed Obama’s presidency was valid. Boehner stated he believed Obama’s birth in the state of Hawaii was a “fact.” However, Boehner also indicated how it was not his job to “tell the American people what to think” regarding Obama’s background. Moreover, as recently revealed by the current governor of Hawaii, congressional leaders actually have the authority and ability to view President Obama’s official birth certificate. Nevertheless, prominent republican members of congress, who also believe Obama’s natural born status is unquestionably valid behind closed doors, are willing to let misperceptions remain in order to politically weaken the Obama administration. Which, to be honest, would be my current political advice to any republican politician facing a potentially tough primary election in 2012.
Whatever the case may be, do you believe President Obama will be compelled into presenting his official birth certificate during the 2012 presidential election? Will it matter to those detractors who are already convinced he is illegitimate?
Idaho Alabama, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming are all talking about the idea of using the principle of “nullification” to hold up implementation of President Obama’s health-care reform initiative. Nullification is the theory that any U.S. State can reject any federal laws they individually view as illegitimate. It stems from Thomas Jefferson’s view that the states have the final say in constitutional matters and not the federal governemnt. Jefferson fashioned the principle of nullification to express his disgust with the Alien and Sedition Acts enacted by then-President John Adams which made it illegal to criticize the president.
What many Americans fail to realize, including the politicians invoking Jefferson’s analysis of the constitutionality of nullification, is that Jefferson, who was a founding father, was actually not one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution. In actuality, Jefferson is not a valid source on constitutional matters as Jefferson was far away, in France, when the framers met in 1787 to replace the Articles of Confederation. The concept of nullification, while noble in sentiment, is wholly unconstitutional as the U.S. Constitution, unlike the Articles of Confederation, considers federal laws higher than laws of the individual states.
However, the U.S. Constitution can be changed. With all the recent anti-government sentiment and renewed “state’s rights” vigor among segments of the population, should an individual U.S. State be granted the right to nullify laws of the U.S. Congress? What would be the possible consequences of allowing states the option to decide which federal laws were acceptable?
Look beyond today’s headlines with our analysis of American politics! This blog is a feature of Pearson’s MyPoliSciLab, the most popular online learning solution for American government courses. To learn more about MyPoliSciLab, visit www.mypoliscilab.com.