Quote of the Day: Nobody Cares About Federalism

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


From Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in United States vs. Windsor:

The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State….This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.

In a nutshell, Kennedy says the Constitution doesn’t forbid states from banning same-sex marriage. But if a state allows same-sex marriage, the federal government can’t refuse to recognize it. Marriage is a state concern—in fact, it’s literally a textbook example of a state concern—not a federal one. Taken as a whole, this ruling was as pure a defense of federalism as we’ve seen in a while.

So why did all the conservative justices oppose it? Answer: Because no one actually cares about federalism. It’s merely a convenient veneer when you prefer one outcome over another. Yesterday state sovereignty was of crucial concern when conservatives gutted the Voting Rights Act. Today, they couldn’t care less about it.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate