The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article IV, Section 1: “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State….” This statement means that each state has the right to have its official acts recognized by other states.
“This is one of the `nationalizing’ clauses of the Constitution. It was designed to prevent a citizen from avoiding his responsibilities or liabilities simply by moving out of a particular state. Thus, if a judgment were obtained against a person in one state, the authenticated record of that judgment could be taken to another state where the defendant had moved and could be used to collect form him in his new domicile without having to go into the court of that state and prove the case all over again.” (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 630.)
Erin O’Hara of The Heritage Foundation explained an “essential purpose” of this clause “is to assure that the courts of one state will honor the judgments of the courts of another state without the need to retry the whole cause of action. It was an essential mechanism for creating a `union’ out of multiple sovereigns….
“Because the clause was drawn from the Articles of Confederation, there is very little discussion of it in the The Federalist, although James Madison asserted in No. 42 that its clarity was a great improvement over the version in the Articles. He listed the clause as one of several that `provide for the harmony and proper intercourse among the States.’
“The Supreme Court has invoked the clause to police state-court proceedings in three contexts: (1) determining when a state must take jurisdiction over claims that arise in other states; (2) limiting the application of local state law over another state’s law in multistate disputes; and (3) recognizing and enforcing judgments rendered in sister-state courts.” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 267.)
Congress has also used this clause is making laws concerning child custody, parental kidnapping, etc. This clause was used when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to enable “each state to refuse to recognize other states’ acts, records, and judicial proceedings purporting to validate same-sex marriages. Moreover, the Act specifically enables each state to deny rights and claims arising form same-sex marriages created in other states….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 268.) It is my understanding that this provision in DOMA still stands even though other parts of the act were ruled unconstitutional.