Today in Salt Lake City a federal judge struck down Amendment 3, the Utah state ban on gay marriage, declaring that it violated a fundamental constitutional right of homosexuals to marry.
The issue of gay marriage is one that is emotionally charged for many people on both sides of the issue. That being said, an issue being emotionally charged does not justify ignoring the limits on federal power placed by our founding fathers in the Bill of Rights. This issue is something that should have been litigated in the state courts of Utah, not in a federal district court.
Federal overreach is not limited to the issue of gay marriage; it is something that affects many issues affecting our daily life, whether we are talking about health insurance, education policy or many other important issues.
When our nation was founded, there were real concerns among the people about the potential expansion of federal power, which is why the Bill of Rights was enacted in the first place. People wanted real guarantees that Washington would not seize more power in the future, which is why we have protections relating to freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and protections against search and seizure without probable cause. But our founders went further than that.
In plain and simple language, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution reads:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
This amendment clearly and unequivocally states that if the Constitution does not specifically give it the authority to interfere in a particular issue, it does not have that power. The state authorities should have the final say on anything that the Constitution does not specifically empower the federal government to do or regulate.
Unfortunately, many presidents and judges of all parties and political persuasions have completely ignored this critical piece of the Bill of Rights and have sought to continually expand the power of the federal government with all kinds of different justifications. The fact that power-grabbing politicians and activist judges have trampled on the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution for generations does not make it right.
The United States is a very diverse society. As a country we are divided on many issues. The federal system of government was designed to accommodate a diverse society. New York and California think very differently about politics than Utah or Tennessee; and that is ok. The duly elected state authorities throughout the United States have the power to put the political will of their own people into practice in the states where they live, and if people don’t like that, they can move to a place more to their liking. There is no need to force a federal standard for everything. It’s ok for the states to be different. It is essential for them to have the power to do things differently if our diverse society is to hold together as a country.
So let’s stop trying to enforce one point of view on every issue from Washington. Let’s stop ignoring the Constitution. And if we as a people feel that the federal government should expand its power, then let’s do it in the way that was prescribed by our founding fathers, by amending the Constitution, not just closing our eyes and pretending that the Constitution means whatever we want it to mean.