The limits of federalism

THE LIMITS OF FEDERALISM…. Earlier this month, the D.C. City Council voted 12 to 1 to recognize same-sex marriages from states that have already passed marriage equality laws. The next day, Rep. John Chaffetz (R) of Utah, the ranking Republican on a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the District, vowed to intervene.

Mike Madden reports that the right’s efforts began in earnest yesterday.

A group of conservative House members who believe in limiting federal involvement in local affairs introduced legislation Thursday that would block Washington, D.C., from recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere in the United State. The bill would overturn local legislation that the D.C. Council passed last month. The nearly three dozen small-government conservatives who sponsored the House bill evidently decided the risk of letting gays and lesbians marry was far more dangerous than whatever evil might come from letting the federal government muck around with local business.

“The family is truly the foundational institution of our nation, and marriage is its cornerstone,” Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, said in a statement.

Yes, one of the bedrock federalist principles of conservative lawmakers is the notion that the federal government shouldn’t interfere in local matters like these. And yet, we have conservatives from Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, deciding that the elected representatives of the District of Columbia are incapable of representing the constituents who elected them to public office. How D.C.’s city council governs in D.C. is fine, just so long as conservative lawmakers from far outside D.C. approve.

Or, put another way, Republican principles go right out the window if the question involves gays or guns.

For what it’s worth, this conservative effort, co-sponsored by a couple of center-right Democrats, isn’t likely to go anywhere. To override the decision of the city council, the measure would need to be passed by both chambers and signed by the president.

It seems likely, then, that on this purely local issue, D.C. will be able to run its city the way it sees fit.