Federalism Today: Gay Marriage in the States

The ongoing battle to legalize gay marriage in the states illustrates the pros and cons of the United States federal system. Federalism describes the political relationship between federal, or national, governments and state, or local, governments. In the United States, powers not constitutionally delineated to the federal government are given to the states (Amendment X of the Constitution).

The state vs. national government debate has its origins before the founding of the United States. The Articles of Confederation (1781-1788) created a weak central government where most power and authority resided with the states. The failure of the Articles paved the way for the U.S. Constitution. However, the vague language of the Constitution ensures that both the states and national government compete for the limited amount of political power and helps explain the current political environment. In addition to legalizing gay marriage, state and federal governments fight to maintain and/or establish authority over immigration and healthcare, among many other issues. More than any other constitutional principal, federalism remains actively debated today. 

"James Madison’s Personal Copy of the Federalist Papers" by Photo Phiend (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“James Madison’s Personal Copy of the Federalist Papers” by Photo Phiend (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As the legalization and banning of gay marriage in the states illustrates, the Courts play a primary role in the battle for power between the national and state governments. Do individual states have the constitutional authority to forbid gay and lesbian couples to marry? Or, should the national government, the Supreme Court in this case, decide if same-sex couples have the right to marry? The Supreme Court could effectively rule on this in the coming year. I welcome your comments below.

Resources and Further Reading

  1. Same-sex marriage: Lining up the next round of cases
  2. Supreme Court delays action on gay marriage
  3. Court weighs overturning gay marriage bans in three southern states
  4. U.S. Supreme Court takes no action on pending gay marriage cases 
  5. U.S. Supreme Court meets again on gay marriage

One thought on “Federalism Today: Gay Marriage in the States

  1. A weak centralized government allows for local and state governments to meet the needs of the immediate population more effectively. It also makes it easier for “We the People” to have control over our government (locally and state level) and easily become active in “Our” government.
    The federal level of government is designed to protect us(military), provide secure borders, a secure banking system and safe and secure roads, rails and airways.

    The concept of a “centralized ” government is found in Monarchies, communism, socialism and dictatorships. These forms of government limit or forbid the individual’s right to free speech, freedom to own property, freedom of religion and, generally, a life of liberty!
    A Self governing people allows for people to disagree and work out disagreements on a local and state level.

    SOO- I hope that the Supreme court decides that the States should decide the issue of gay marriage based on what the people, as a whole, decide for their state. A centralized government dictating morality completely degrades our freedoms of self determination and liberty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *