What Rights Are Given to the States in the Constitution?

What Rights Are Given to the States in the Constitution?

(IntegrityTimes.com) – The United States government was designed to be a system of checks and balances to prevent any one entity from having too much power. That’s why the Constitution outlines where powers begin and end. This includes allowing states to govern themselves to some extent, with the Constitution ultimately being the “supreme law of the land.”

The 10th Amendment

The 10th Amendment in particular was written to draw the line between state and federal powers.

“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.”

The 10th Amendment makes it clear that any powers not specifically outlined in the Constitution belong to the states, but what does that really mean? Essentially, if the Constitution doesn’t have a law for or against something, the states can create their own laws. It also goes beyond that, extending to divisions, departments, etc that do not already exist at the federal level.

Supremacy Clause

Article VI Clause 2 of the Constitution further defines how power division between the federal and state governments should be viewed. This section is known as the Supremacy Clause because it defines the Constitution, and its contents as the “supreme law of the land.” What this means is that the Constitution trumps any law the states might make. However, it is still possible to have state and federal laws that are directly opposed to each other.

Slavery is one example of how this might work, which is why laws against slavery are now in the Constitution, rather than being separate laws outside of this document. No state may make laws that go against the Constitution because it supersedes any other law.

Before the Civil War, there was no law against slavery, and the South claimed the federal government did not have the authority to make such laws, because the states already had their own. And while slavery was a hot topic, it was one of the main elements of an even bigger economic problem. Passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery precluded states’ ability to make oppositional laws on this topic.

Opposing Laws

States often have laws that differ from or even oppose federal laws. The key is the Constitution, and it’s the job of the Supreme Court to interpret laws when questions of Constitutionality arise. Today, this is where cases concerning state rights vs federal reach are heard and resolved.

Again, the Constitution is key here. Laws governing marijuana use are a perfect example of a current topic showcasing opposition between state and federal laws. While the federal government has laws against the use of marijuana and may make federal arrests within states that allow its use, the topic is not addressed in the Constitution. Therefore, both federal and state laws apply, with neither having been proved to be in direct conflict with the Constitution.

The Constitution guarantees and protects specific rights to the people over all else. It also protects states’ flexibility to make their own laws so long as they do not conflict with those guaranteed rights. Even though it could be argued that there are current laws in direct conflict with those rights, until those laws are brought before the Supreme Court for interpretation, they still stand.

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