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When States Rights Are Wrong

February 23, 2014

The United States has lately become increasingly divided into states seeking to treat members of their population as deserving of fair and equal treatment under the law and those wishing to discriminate against some and in favor of others based on arbitrary characteristics such as race, gender, ethnic group, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation. This trend alarms many who see being a citizen of the United States as becoming less important to their lives and livelihoods than the state in which they happen to reside.

A person, regardless of any of the aforementioned characteristics they may exhibit, is deserving of health care, education, employment, food, clothing, safety and shelter as well as the opportunity to pursue personal fulfillment and express themselves through speech, assembly and the ballot box. These rights  should not be curtailed based on the physical location they happen to reside in within the country’s borders. Actually, the country they live in shouldn’t matter in this regard,either, but since we currently live in a world governed my nation-states, I guess we have to deal with the differences that exist in countries we have no voice in.

Many of the differences in state laws in recent years have come about in reaction to movements at the national and the state level seeking to codify these rights for all. Court decisions and state law changes restricting rights of many to vote or enabling people to expressly discriminate against various groups have sprung up and produced a marked regression in the direction that many states have taken in recent years. Some are bucking trends in other states to increase freedom and rights for people who have faced unfair discrimination in the past. These groups include a majority of the population, of course, as they include women.

Often, a preferred tactic taken in writing repressive legislation is to call a law something which is the direct opposite of both its intended purpose and its ultimate effect on the is directed towards. Thus, the Defense of Marriage Act was aimed at preventing anyone not engaged in a heterosexual relationship from marrying or obtaining any of the benefits that accrue to that status in our society. Likewise, Voter ID laws in some states restricted those unable to obtain certain identifying documentation from voting, regardless of whether or not they had been permitted to do so in the past.

Many states have also passed so-called “Right to Work” laws, which are accurately labeled “Right to Work for Less” laws, because they hamstring worker organizations’ ability to collectively bargain for workers with their employers for their wages and working conditions. This gives much power to the employers and increasingly less power to the employees, resulting in a situation where worker incomes and benefits get slashed as company profits and salaries at the top skyrocket. Increasingly, these laws have included public sector as well as private sector employees. This is also a major rollback of New Deal era worker rights legislation.

Reproductive rights have become a center of attention for the religious right and their political spokespeople. Many are claiming that even providing contraception violates their strongly held religious beliefs. The so-called “Right to Life” movement is basically endorsing a right to be born, but no rights after that. The same folks who want government to stop people from terminating pregnancies (some even after the death of the mother), believe it is immoral for government to intervene to insure the health and wellbeing of those children after they are born. Thus, we see such progressive safety net programs as food stamps and early childhood education being slashed for poor children. Many programs built during the New Deal, Civil Rights movement and War on Poverty have been decimated in recent budget-cutting frenzies that have barely addressed issues pertaining to the other sides of the budgetary spending equation, such as unnecessary tax breaks and subsidies for the wealthy and those who “earn” their income by other than wages and salaries, the subsidies paid to highly profitable and polluting corporations and a bloated military establishment.

Perhaps the most blatant areas where this unequal treatment of American citizens is currently taking place is in the health care arena and has been caused by both a Supreme Court decision and Republican dominated state legislatures. The unwillingness of about half of the states to accept Medicaid expansion for their people under the ACA has resulted in a coverage gap for millions of people living in those states who are neither poor enough to qualify for Medicaid under the old state rules or to qualify for Federal subsidies to help pay for their insurance premiums. In essence, these states are telling the Federal Government they will not accept the federal funds to pay for the expansion because the Supreme Court ruled they can’t be forced to do so. Those paying in reality are the individuals and families who remain uninsured and the hospitals and other providers who end up footing the bill when they show up at the emergency room with no insurance coverage requiring medical treatment that could have been prevented or more efficiently and humanely administered before they became emergencies.

I do not understand the mentality of those who preach alleged “Christian” values wanting to punish children for the alleged sins of their parents or deny people the resources to improve their lives because they are unfortunate enough not to be born under good economic circumstances. I do not understand the desire of so many in government to hypocritically force their morality on others, regardless of how little effect the others’ lifestyle has on their own rights. It is insanity on the one hand to oppose abortion and then refuse to make affordable the means to prevent pregnancy to begin with. Big government opponents who want to become involved in people’s sex lives are hypocritical enough as it is. Preaching abstinence is fine, but if you want fewer unwanted pregnancies it doesn’t do the trick and never has. Restricting access to women’s health services as many states have done recently primarily affects the poor. Those with the means to do so just travel to where they can receive the treatment.

Many of the states currently jumping on the right to work and voter restriction bandwagons appear to be doing so as a blatant attempt to retain control of their part of the government at any cost. It does not promote democracy either in the public sphere or at work, both of which should be sought in the furtherance of justice and fairness. Maintaining control over the many for the benefit of a few was not a stated goal of our forefathers as interpreted by the Declaration of Independence or even the Constitution as amended in the many years since it was written. Taking the vote away from minority group members, the poor, young and elderly, and not enforcing the rights of workers to fair wages and decent treatment at the hands of their employers should not be permissible in any state in this country or any country in the world.

States Rights are fine and dandy, as are local community ordinances when it comes to matters that better meet the unique needs of a locale and do not require federal assistance to administer, but when inherent rights that should be afforded to all are under attack in certain areas or states, the states must be required to toe the line and uphold them as well. We tried a country that permitted certain states to allow some people to be owned by others. That didn’t work out so well in retrospect. Allowing states to give rights and privileges to whites or rich people which they do not allow to others and which negatively affect individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not desirable and should not be permitted to continue in a free and just society. I hope to be a member of such a society one day.


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  1. Re: When States Rights are Wrong.

    Hope you don’t mind if I pass your article along to others including politicians. You will be given proper credit.

    Gene Buckley

    Lansing, Michigan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Be my guest. Thank you for your interest.


    • Russell R Ellis permalink

      The Key to our State laws comes from the U.S. Constitution: Equal Justice for all; No laws can be made that cause discrimination, or discriminate against anyone nor can we discriminate. We the people are to make sure that Constitution is obeyed in our States, as we have a Chief law Enforcement officer that is to make sure States honor our U.S Constitution, and he is the President of the United Stakes. There are many more laws that discriminate that should have been gotten rid of long ago that are not in your well written article, because there are to many to list. Only our Judges besides the President can judge a law and get rid of it but they refuse to do it. They did this by replacing the unwritten law with court decisions. what a farce. But no matter what, the buck falls at our feet, we don’t want to do anything about it, so folks it is our fault, we are the; We The People, you know the boss, but we would rather play political games like football.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, it look like we are in reverse and in full throttle while headed back in time. I too, fail to understand why states rights top federal law and why there isn’t anything being done to rein that mess in.

    This is excellent work, most excellent. And it deserves a wider audience as you are right on target!

    Thank you for posting this!


  3. Dreamer9177 permalink

    The attempt to repackage Hate, Discrimination, Prejudice, Racism, and all the other nasty traits that people have into a more appealing package called States RIghts, or Religious Freedom does not make the underlying ugliness any more palatable.


  4. It is an outrageous wrong to require the Jewish owner of a bakery to create a cake with Nazi symbols for a Nazi celebration under threat of government-enforced extortion penalites. .

    It is an outrageous wrong to require the Muslim owner of the bakery to create one that shows bacon.

    It is an outrageous wrong to require a rape victim to do a birthday cake celebrating her rapist.

    It is an outrageous wrong to require an Armenian print-shop owner to publish a book praising the Turkish treatment of Armenians in the early 20th century, or to require the Turkish counterpart to publish the Armenian version.

    Extortion is a crime, whether an individual does it, a crime syndicate, or a government.

    Compelling a person to perform a service under threat of monetary confiscation or imprisonment is a criminal violation of the victim’s rights, no matter how noble you think your cause is.

    Theft is theft, it is not equality


    • This is fine. Nowhere in my essay will you find me advocating for any of the behaviors you find so outrageously wrong, however.


  5. Seems like there is a long history of wanting to discriminate that lies behind States Rights laws. And typically, it’s an attempt by the powerful (white, male, straight, rich) to keep power for themselves.


  6. Reblogged this on jrbaltmd57.


  7. Recent readings after police brutality in news led me to conclusion that a series of Supreme Court decisions/cases which undermines 14th and 15th Amendments empower states ‘legal’ activities that reminds one of old Jim Crow laws. e.g. Plessy v. Ferguson; United States v. Cruikshank; United States v. Reese; and the Slaughterhouse Cases. As a result of these and other SCOTUS decisions, states are free to do what the 14th Amendment seems to prohibit, discriminate against classes of citizens based on their rights as citizens of the state. To overcome these precedents, Congress must exert extraordinary powers restoring original intent of 14th & 15th Amendments in order to punish a state or states that violate civil rights.


  8. JoC permalink

    State’s rights is nothing more than Human Rights disguised as “Not here, no way.” The south remains delusional.


  9. Palmer Scott permalink

    Love this piece and will be retweeting it.

    Can a baker be forced to put offensive messages on cakes?

    No, they can’t. The baker has free speech rights. HOWEVER, this silly argument is used to try deny same-sex couples from buying wedding cakes. I can’t force a baker to a penis-shaped cake or one with an offensive message, BUT if the bakery offers wedding cakes to straight couples it better damn well sell me the same type of cake!

    As to forcing Jewish delis or Muslim stores to sell pork, the same thing applies. They don’t have to sell me ham, but they better sell me the same pastrami-on-rye the guy in front of me ordered!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In each case @trutherator mentions, the law does not require them to complete the task requested. To deny hateful speech or images are well within their right to do. To deny someone the same service they provide everyone else because of discrimination, e.g., a wedding cake for a gay couple, is not legal.


  11. Now, to my real comment. Loved your blog, it reflects my sentiments very well. Nevertheless, it is an extremely complicated issue and I can easily see where those who deny liberty think they are protecting it.

    John Stuart Mill wrote extensively on liberty. At a basic level he seems to support the idea championed by the Right; a Darwinian society. Liberty, in his and many other’s opinion, is defined as the ability of an individual to live his or her life as they see fit, so long as no harm is done. On the face of it, he says gov’t has no business in helping, regardless of the consequences, “an individual”; nothing is said about groups of individuals, at least in the lecture I was listening to. (The same lecturer says Adam Smith thought the same thing; maybe in Wealth of Nations, but not in his other works; which show Smith as a true active state liberal) (Also, now I have to read On Liberty)

    Now, what I wonder is how far do you take the concept “do no harm” [to others]?


  12. This was a good read!! And, honestly, it challenged me! I recently wrote a piece about why states should continue to have the right to monitor education for all children until federal gov’t can come up with a better way of measuring “achievement.” I think the impacts of “testing” are so toxic that using it as a national strategy for equity cannot be accepted. Your article reminds me that more pressure should be placed at the federal level to figure it out!! We must find a way to make sure all children are given quality education because all states are not committed to this end! Here is the link to the reflection I referenced:

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Bibi Al-Mishari permalink

    I agree with that ( unfair discrimination in the past , in the present and in the future ) is the main problem !!

    Liked by 1 person

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  1. It’s wrong to force someone to do a service involuntarily | Trutherator's Weblog

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