Relationship Between the States and Federal Government

The relationship between the Federal Government and the states is described in  the constitution in Article IV, Artricle VI and the 10th Amendment.

In Article IV, the term “full faith and credit” is used to describe the mutual respect and legality of laws, public records, and judicial decisions made by states. In the case that state laws do conflict with each other, the law within each state is recognized as legal for that state. Section 2 recognizes that “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities” of citizens in all the states. This provision is significant because it guarantees that the rights of a citizen in one state will be respected by other states. 

For example if Nevada has laws establishing rules for marriage and divorce, New York must recognize those laws as valid. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and President Clinton signed it into law in 1996. This law gave states the authority not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and it also denied gays who were legally married all the federal benefits given to other married couples. This law was challenged, and the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Windsor v United States that the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples was unconstitutional, thus enabling legally married same-sex couples to be potentially eligible for some of over a thousand federal benefits. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in 2015 in Obergefell v Hodges that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment required that states issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This meant that same-sex marriage was legal in the United States. 

The phrase “privileges and immunities” in section 2 of Article 4  becomes a significant phrase in the Fourteenth Amendment, which tells states they cannot abridge the privileges and immunities of its citizens. This extends these protections to the citizens of all states.

 Finally, in Article IV Section 4, the United States guarantees every state a “republican form of government.” The use of the word republican is important. It suggests that every state must establish a limited representative government. It also guarantees that the United States will protect every state from outside attacks or internal strife.

 in Article VI. The supremacy clause asserts that “the Constitution, and the laws of the United States . . . shall be the supreme law of the land.” In effect, this clause tells the states that they cannot pass laws or pursue actions that come into conflict with federal actions. It also refers to all state officials pledging their allegiance to the Constitution. The court case McCulloch v Maryland in 1819 established this precedent when Maryland was told it could not tax the National Bank.

The overall relationship between the federal government and state governments, is defined in the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. This amendment specifically tells the states that they have reserved powers: Powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution belong to the states