Congress Lacks a Constitutionally Granted Power to Define Marriage, † Œ Ø ¿
Andrew’s #5 makes me wonder whether he isn’t too enamored of the opportunity to oppose lefitsts in the course of supporting a liberal judicial ruling. I’ll admit that I, too, find it very interesting that my reasons for disagreeing with Judge Tauro’s rulings (as I understand them) ought to ally me with a variety of left-wingers. They dislike federalism that subverts their statist aims; I dislike federalism that collects taxes that will transfer to states with no federal definition of terms required.
I’d note, for one obvious instance, that it is accepted practice that it is left to sovereign states to regulate abortion, as long as women have the right thereto (per Roe v. Wade et al.) according to some basic requirements. How would Tauro’s reasoning not invalidate such legislation as the Hyde Amendment, preventing federal funding of abortions? If a state determines that abortion should be among the procedures covered by public healthcare programs,then it would seem that Tauro has left the federal government no recourse but to supply money to the state without defining the limits of acceptable procedures.
More to the point, though, I’m not persuaded that Andrew’s #2 actually answers my objection (and Brassband’s). Note, especially, the first sentence:
Attorney General Coakley’s argument, which Judge Tauro agreed with, is that when the Federal government creates its own definition of marriage, it requires states to keep track of different types of marriages, even if the states don’t recognize the Federal distinctions in their own laws.
In the case (essentially) of contractual requirements for the issuance of federal dollars, “marriage” is a definable term, not unlike “eligible participant” or “owner” or “the company” or “applicable service.” Given the complexities of our layers of government and their many overlapping programs, the fact that “marriage” means something different for the purpose of federal contracts than for state contracts hardly creates an undue burden.
Under such an approach, it would be impossible for the federal government to do anything without exceeding its powers, in some way. Recall that the Constitution leaves authority not just to the states, but also to the people. According to the reasoning that Andrew describes, he could just as well say that the federal government, in creating any job or office, should not be able to set requirements because “it is not enough to say the [applicant] can opt-out of this requirement by not participating.”
I write all this, of course, from within the belief that the federal government should not be as big and all-spending as it is. Wishing for a less powerful national government, however, should not lead us to accept a government that’s small in control of taxpayer dollars but just as big in handing them out.