This week, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and kicked California's Proposition 8, defining "marriage" as between one man and one woman, back down to the lower courts. Many DOMA opponents have celebrated while some supporters have seen this as a minor setback in their quest to have the word "marriage" ultimately defined.
The most troubling aspect of this ruling for me isn't whether or not SCOTUS ruled correctly in a social sense, but was the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution just tossed out the window?
Amendment Ten of the United States Constitution reads as follows:
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. (Emphasis added)
In other words, the powers of governance not specifically outlined within the Constitutionas being reserved for the federal government are given to individual states and the citizens within the borders of those states.
The Founding Fathers, I believe, could not have seen the massive power-grab in Washington that we have witnessed in recent years. That is why they sought to explicitly outline what matters the federal government has jurisdiction over. Unfortunately, the bastardization of their intentions has resulted in the feds legislating not only from Capitol Hill but giving powers to the federal courts to legislate from the bench.
Thirteen states have legalized same-sex marriage as of 2013, with many states having bans on same-sex marriage based on either state statute or state constitution. Has this week's SCOTUS ruling put those bans in danger in direct violation of the Tenth Amendment? It could be argued that the bans in effect in those states with prohibitions of same-sex marriage are unconsitutional with the precedent being this week's ruling as citation. Would that not take away the rights given to the states and their people to invoke sovereignty under the the Tenth Amendment in matters not related to the federal government?
Legislation has been proposed within the House of Representatives in the past that would require Congress to specify exactly which enumerated power they are invoking when considering enacting any law. The Enumerated Powers Act (EPA) was introduced in January of 2009 by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) in an effort to keep the feds from overreaching their power concerning states and their citizens. When Congress doesn't agree with a law passed within a state's legislature and approved by the citizens, they wrest control from the states and enact federal legislation overturning the wishes of the states and citizens. How does that NOT violate the Tenth Amendment?
In the workplace, there are rules specifically outlined to ensure that employees stay within the confines of what the company expects. Violate those rules, and you are asked to explain your actions. Asking Congress to cite what authority they have under the Constitution to pass a certain piece of legislation is not unreasonable. It would leave a lot less ambiguity for SCOTUS to sort out in the court system and keep a lot of matters that should be left to the states out of the federal courts
The EPA is an idea whose time is, in my opinion, overdue. Unfortunately, Congress will never require themselves to stay within the specific powers given under the Constitution.