Thursday, April 26, 2007

Unwritten Rights

Conservative groups love to babble on about how liberal jurists expand "rights" beyond what's actually written in the constitution. "Where does it say 'separation of church and state'?" Yadayada. So I'm curious to see how the Family Research Council justifies this "constitutional critique" of the proposed Hate Crimes law moving through Congress: "The version that now heads to the House floor violates the Commerce Clause and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments."

Now, there is a valid First Amendment attack on the bill text, though the bill explicitly says that mere speech isn't sufficient to violate the law. And I'll concede to that the Commerce Clause and the 14th Amendment are implicated too, though in the former case its not a "violation" of the Commerce Clause, it just may not be justified by the Commerce Clause (it's not justified by the Guarantee Clause either, but that doesn't mean it violates it). But the 13th and 15th Amendments? How does this implicate emancipation from slavery and the right to vote?

It's almost like they took a grab-bag of constitutional hot topics and hoped one would stick. Embarassing.

1 comment:

PG said...

I think a law can be considered a "violation" of the Interstate Commerce Clause if it is wholly premised on that Clause for Congress's ability to pass it, and it overreaches those ICC bounds, just as something can "violate" Congressional Spending Power if it abuses that Power. Of course, what we really mean is violated is the states' sovereignty (10th Amendment), but given that so very many things are thought to violate state sovereignty while being premised on different parts of the Constitution for their justification, I would give FRC a pass on their turn of phrase.

Told you the conservative rhetoric surrounding this bill was crazy :-)