Explained: Does the Federal Constitution Outrank a State’s Constitution?

Posted by Justin on

These days, there’s a lot of argument about just how much power the Federal Constitution has over individual state rights and mandates.

Let’s take a closer look at the document that started it all and answer once and for all whether the Federal Constitution outranks the constitutions of individual states:


Wait, There are State Constitutions?

Absolutely! In fact, every state in the US has a written Constitution since that’s one of the requirements for Statehood.

Ironically, most State Constitutions are longer than the US Constitution itself, which only clocks in at about 4,500 words in total.

State Constitutions are typically longer than 8,500 words since they spell out many more local laws that affect the day-to-day lives of their citizens.

On the flip side, the US Constitution mostly concerns itself with outlining the broad strokes of the Federal government and its relation to both the rights of the citizens and the rights of the states.

The Supremacy Clause

So, does the Federal Constitution outrank any State Constitution?

In actual fact it does, and that’s because of the so-called supremacy clause. It’s technically Article VI, Clause 2 in the United States Constitution.

In a nutshell, the clause states that any Federal treaties, laws, or decisions made by the Federal government, and in accordance with the Constitution, will override any conflicting laws or decisions made by States.

Say that a state voted to outlaw color TV as a hypothetical (and hilarious) example. If the Federal government then said that states were not allowed to outlaw color TV, the state law would be invalid and no one would have to follow it.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Federal government gets to run fast and loose with the law, however.

Indeed, the Federal government must still stick to the laws and powers outlined in the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.

But it is a fact that any Federal laws or edicts necessarily override State laws if they come into direct conflict with the former Federal law.

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What Does This Mean for the Law?

This has had some unintended consequences for our legal system over the centuries, even though the Founding Fathers had their hearts in the right place.

The intention for the supremacy clause was to ensure that all the states would work together when the time came. Back in their day, people were more loyal to their individual states than they were to the United States as a whole, and the supremacy clause was a way of ensuring that states couldn’t break away unnecessarily.

For instance, the supremacy clause has guaranteed that women have the right to vote since it’s a Federal law, not a State law that some states could choose to ignore.

However, it does mean that the Federal government holds ultimate power in the United States.

There are definitely some strong arguments for rebalancing power in the future.

For now, it’s important that we all vote in Representatives and Senators that understand the importance of small government so that the Federal government doesn't overreach like it has been recently.


Thank you for reading, stay strong patriots.

Justin | FamTeeWorld
Maine, USA

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