The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land, overriding lesser laws and acting as the fundamental basis of our legal and political systems. How, then, does the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution work?
Article VI, Clause 2, or The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, is a vital rule which primarily serves to enforce federal rulings over state rulings. As a federated government, the United States has both federal and state laws, as well as a plethora of local laws. When these laws overlap or conflict with one another, there must be some form of remedy to determine which is the ultimate law to be followed; the supremacy clause functions exactly as that remedy.
The Supremacy Clause holds that the constitution, and most federal laws, will supersede and override laws at the state level. States who are dissatisfied with a specific federal law are not permitted to violate it, even if they have their own laws or constitution stating otherwise.
As a conflict-of-laws rule, the Supremacy Clause establishes one ultimate legal authority, and prevents a number of judicial conflicts over jurisdiction from breaking out.
A pertinent historical example of this is the desegregation of schools in the American South in the 1960’s; in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jim Crow laws often forbade African Americans from attending White schools in many Southern states. These laws were eventually rendered null after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional.
Now that racial segregation was unconstitutional per the highest law in the land, it no longer mattered that existing state laws or constitutions forbade them; it was the Supremacy Clause in action.
Intricate legal and political systems like that of the United States need rules such as the Supremacy Clause to keep things functioning smoothly. Without it, our nation would be a land of complex and contradictory laws vying against one another for legal legitimacy.
What are your thoughts on the Supremacy Clause? How do you think our nation would be different without such a rule? Leave a comment down below!