The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What to do when constitutions conflict?

There are people who take Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to task for declining to defend a Virginia state constitutional ban on gay marriage. I think he did the right thing if, and that's an important if, he truly believes that the Virginia provision is contrary to the United States Constitution.

Article VI of the U. S. Constitution states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Thus in cases of conflicts between the U. S. Constitution and a state constitution, the state constitution is invalid. And if an attorney general of a state truly believes that a state constitutional provision conflicts with the U. S. Constitution, he has no duty to defend it. If Virginia's people ratified a Constitutional provision reinstituting slavery, or denying the vote to all but white males, would Mark Herring be duty-bound to defend it? I think not.

A constitional-law scholar like Curt Levey must know this — and in fact, though his post is entitled, “An attorney general's job is to defend the law — no exceptions,” if you read it, he clearly accepts at least one exception. For he says that an attorney general would not be required to defend “a law requiring the arrest and imprisonment of all members of the opposition party without trial.” So it is a matter of where one draws a line. And unless there is a clear Supreme Court decision, each attorney general, and in fact each citizen, has to interpret the U. S. Constitution as he sees fit.

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