You may wonder why Republicans like to argue that so many things should be in the realm of “States Rights”.
The State Rights argument became very popular after the federal government passed laws restricting segregation. States in the south objected to having to desegregate and protect the equal rights of all persons. They argued the federal government had no authority to force the Southern states to integrate and stop discriminating.
So the phrase “states rights” tends to have different connotations depending on one’s political viewpoint. The balance of power between the states and the federal government has been debated since the US was founded. The meaning of states rights at that time is rarely at issue today.
Instead, more recently, Republicans, particularly southern conservatives, view states rights in a positive light in that it allows states to create and enforce their own laws. Democrats and progressives tend to view the phrase “states rights” in a negative light, as an excuse for states to be able to discriminate and not protect equal rights of all persons.
The Constitutional Authority for States Rights
The 10th amendment to the constitution provides:
Tenth Amendment. 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 is the basis for states rights. This amendment essentially provides that any power that is not granted to the federal government in the articles of the constitution will be states rights. This is the federal authority for states to impose regulations to protect the health, welfare, safety and morals of their citizens.
Examples of States Rights Issues and Controversies