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The Blue & Gray Press | August 24, 2019

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Letter to the editor: Constitution does not allow states to deny inherent rights

Max Reinhardt wrote extensively last week on states’ rights as grounds for upholding California’s Proposition 8. He claimed that liberals are creating rights “that are absent from the Constitution,” and cited the 10th Amendment to the Constitution extensively.

Yet, in all of this, we have overlooked the text of the 9th Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Put simply, the list of rights enumerated in the Constitution is not exhaustive. Just because a right is not listed does not mean that it does not exist, or that it does not need to be protected.

Indeed, our rights do need to be protected, and, unless one is willing to hold the idea that rights are relative–that they change from state to state, and can be given and taken away by whatever party happens to control the state legislature, then the role of all governments is to protect and defend rights. That means action at a federal, state and local level.

All too often, the states’ rights argument is embraced at the expense of civil rights. Why are the rights of states–California, Virginia and so forth–somehow worth more than the rights of the people? Is our government not elected to serve its citizens? Was the Constitution not drafted to protect the public, rather than a collection of states?

The states are given a significant degree of autonomy, setting their own criminal codes, running their own courts and even maintaining their own National Guard units that answer to a state’s governor. Infringing on one’s civil liberties, however, is not a state right. Protecting civil liberties is a state responsibility, and they should be held to this standard.

Girard Bucello is a freshman.



  1. maxreinhardt

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    A few years ago in a galaxy far far away, I would have agreed with you. Believe it or not, I was a liberal Democrat until I was 16.

    The Ninth Amendment, while important, is written in passive language and is merely an expression of the Founders’ belief that not all rights are in the Constitution.

    However, it is not to be misconstrued as an unlimited source of rights. Rights can be created by local, state, and federal statues and constitutions. For example, several state constitutions explicitly guarantee a right to privacy, while the federal constitution only guards against unreasonable search and seizure.

    The federal constitution is the minimum level of rights enjoyed by every American. New rights can be created by governments, but not arbitrarily by federal judges.