President Bush goes to South America© Angel Boligan, El Universal, Mexico City

Century Marks

Moral federalism: Before Roe v. Wade some states were beginning to ease restrictive abortion laws. The Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in essence led to a one-size-fits-all approach. The court’s ruling also moved abortion from the realm of normal politics, where deals are cut and attempts at consensus are made, to protest politics. The contentious issue of gay marriage seems to be moving the opposite way, toward “moral federalism,” that is, away from national debate over a constitutional amendment against gay marriage and toward “a diversity of practice” at the state level. Jonathan Rauch argues that this moral federalism makes contentious issues less volatile politically. “Even moral absolutists . . . should grudgingly support [this state-by-state] pluralism, because it makes the world safe for their moral activism by keeping the cultural peace” (Atlantic, April).

 

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