Basis of ruling on LGBT rights stirs debate

Posted by Kirk Johnson

"A judge’s decision on Thursday declaring that a state law honoring the freedom to marry in Massachusetts should take precedence over a federal definition of marriage has exposed the fractures and fault lines among groups working to bolster states’ rights.

"The decision, by Judge Joseph L. Tauro of United States District Court in Boston, supports and echoes a central tenet of the Tea Party, 9/12 and Tenth Amendment movements, all of which argue that the authority of the states should trump Washington in most matters not explicitly assigned by the Constitution to the federal government.

"Congress, the judge said, had infringed on a question that was the province of local voters and legislators.

"But in using the argument to support marriage equality in Massachusetts, where the case arose, the judge created an awkward new debating point within the less-government movement about where social goals and government policy intersect, or perhaps collide.

... “'The Constitution isn’t about political ideology,' said Michael Boldin, the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, a group based in Los Angeles. 'It’s about liberty, and limiting the government to certain divisive issues — I applaud what I consider a very rare ruling from the judiciary.' 

... "'As far as an assertion of states’ rights goes, I believe it’s a good thing,' said Shelby Blakely, executive director of The New Patriot Journal, the group’s online publication. 'The Constitution does not allow federal regulation of the freedom to marry just as it doesn’t allow for federal regulation of health care.'

“'But I don’t want to come off saying I support marriage equality,' she added.

"On the other side of the debate, some advocates said they were concerned that the ruling would be misinterpreted as somehow affecting all states, and thus be seen as a reason to toughen laws banning marriages of same-sex couples in places where it is unpopular.

“'The judge’s ruling doesn’t force any state to do anything,' said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a group based in New York, 'but rather says that the federal government should not infringe on Massachusetts’s right to regulate marriage.'

“'You don’t get married according to the laws in Congress, you get married according to the laws of New York or New Jersey or Connecticut,' he said. The court’s ruling, 'provides a return to the way the federal government has always dealt with marriage — leaving it to the states.'"

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