Constitution Countdown: Tenth Amendment

Photo by Andre Rowlett.

Constitution Day, September 17, is the anniversary of the day in 1787 when the United States Constitution was signed. Though the Bill of Rights was not ratified until 1791, Sidelines will be breaking down one of the first ten amendments each day between now and September 17.

The Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Meaning:

Simply put, if a decision is not under the federal government’s control, the power to make that decision falls to the states or a smaller power. The idea behind this amendment is to make sure that the federal government does not–for lack of a better term– micromanage the states and smaller governments.

The Effect:

This, the “states’ rights” amendment, has most notably been argued in modern politics this summer after the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 26, which mandated all states allow the marriage of gay couples. By making it a national mandate and not leaving it up to the states to decide, the Supreme Court upset many states who are opposed to the marriage of same-sex couples. A Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, was put in jail earlier this week for refusing to sign gay marriage licenses. Although it was made a national decision, Davis was elected to her position and agreed to fulfill her duties while Kentucky still prohibited gay marriage.

Though one of the lesser known amendments, the tenth amendment is why laws on gambling, marijuana, prisons and even taxes vary from state-to-state.

For more Constitution Countdown, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @MTSUSidelines.

To contact news editor Sarah Grace Taylor, email


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