states' rights

plural noun

Definition of states' rights

: all rights not vested by the U.S. Constitution in the federal government nor forbidden by it to the separate states

Examples of states' rights in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Some have tried to argue that the Confederate flag is actually a symbol of states' rights, but this ignores its long association with white supremacy and racial violence. Star Tribune, "America's divide seen in a clash of symbols," 15 Jan. 2021 Influential Republicans who oppose this legal gambit are invoking GOP principles about protecting states' rights, saying states should not interfere with other states' elections. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for December 11: Pandemic, transition, stimulus, Lebanon, Brandon Bernard," 11 Dec. 2020 What does Paxton's lawsuit do in terms of setting a precedent that is contrary to states' rights? Alison Medley, Chron, "'It keeps him as a player': Scholar explains motives for AG Paxton's election lawsuit," 11 Dec. 2020 The dissenting judge in the case, Eric Murphy, wrote that the ruling violated states' rights to determine their own education policies and practices. John Wisely, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan right to literacy ruling stands as court rejects Legislature's appeal," 10 June 2020 His fight was for states' rights, his loyalty not to slavery but to Virginia. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc's Morning Line: MLB talks lag; I'm starting not to care," 10 June 2020 By the end of the day, there was unanimous support among these ambitious Democrats in supporting the states' rights to legalize marijuana without federal interference - the stance of the Obama administration. David Weigel, Houston Chronicle, "Democrats attack attorney general's marijuana policy change," 5 Jan. 2018 The decision was seen as a victory for states' rights advocates, who called Obama's establishing of the monuments gross federal overreach. The Tylt,, "Do you support Trump's efforts to reduce national monuments?," 8 Dec. 2017 Thomas is a conservative and a strict constructionist who supports states' rights. CNN, "In rare interview, Clarence Thomas calls Gorsuch 'outstanding'," 2 Nov. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'states' rights.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of states' rights

1824, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about states' rights

Time Traveler for states' rights Time Traveler

The first known use of states' rights was in 1824

See more words from the same year

Statistics for states' rights

Last Updated

23 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“States' rights.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for states' rights

states' rights

noun plural

Legal Definition of states' rights

1 : rights and powers not forbidden to the states nor vested in the federal government by the U.S. Constitution
2 singular in construction : a doctrine based on states' rights that has been used to justify state resistance to federal authority in matters seen as the exclusive concern of the states and that is most often associated with the states favoring slavery and secession in the 19th century — compare federalism

More from Merriam-Webster on states' rights Encyclopedia article about states' rights

Comments on states' rights

What made you want to look up states' rights? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!