Monday, December 06, 2004

The 10th Amendment

I'm off work today, in case you are wondering what I'm doing wasting company time by blogging at 10 in the morning. Anyway, Andrew Sullivan (subscription required) has a nice take on states' rights, and the GOP's sudden aversion to them, now that they are in power in Washington and not crazy about what some states want to do (legalize medical marijuana, allow gay marriage, etc.) He also has some sage advice for liberals as well.

Let Ohio prevent gay couples from having legal protections. But let California enact a sweeping civil-unions bill that brings gay couples very close to marriage rights. Let Washington ban federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. But allow Sacramento to set up a huge research program. Not only do you give both sides something--finding a compromise where no compromise seemed possible--but you also get a chance to see how social experiments succeed or fail in practice. Within a few years, we will have a much better idea of the real promise of embryonic stem cells and the social impact of gay marriage. Then the discussion can actually move forward, instead of in increasingly tight and bitter circles.

There's a lesson for liberals in this as well. Cool it on the courts. One of the biggest setbacks for abortion rights was the Roe v. Wade overreach. Abortion rights were gaining in state legislatures before these advances were jeopardized by the Supreme Court's backlash-kindling intervention. If gay activists push too far too fast now to mandate marriage rights across the entire country, they may well get a federal constitutional ban that will destroy gay rights for generations. Federalism can work for both sides. The alternative is bipartisan hypocrisy that renders political debate as acrimonious as it is futile. In the United States, we can do better. And for two centuries, we often have.

And for those of you concerned about the Constitution's full faith and credit clause when it comes to gay marriage, Sullivan reminds us that we have the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.


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