FACT CHECK: Does Texas Have A Legal Right To Secede On Its Own?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

A video shared on Facebook claims Texas has a legal right to secede from the U.S. on its own.

Verdict: False

States do not have a legal right to secede on their own, according to the Supreme Court and experts.

Fact Check:

A Texas Republican introduced a bill in the Texas House of Representatives to set a referendum on whether or not Texas should seek to secede from the U.S., according to The Hill. If the bill is passed, a referendum would be held in this year’s upcoming election, the outlet reported.

The Facebook video, viewed more than 10,000 times, claims Texas can leave the U.S. on its own and cites the 10th Amendment and Article 1 of the Constitution. The person in the video states, “Texas can absolutely, 100%, choose to leave the union. But it is a choice for the people of Texas and the people of Texas alone.”

However, experts and the Supreme Court have said that states cannot unilaterally secede on their own. (RELATED: Is The Supreme Court Considering A Case To Reinstate Donald Trump As President?)

Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, told Check Your Fact in an email that “the answer is no” and Texas “cannot secede.” He also pointed Check Your Fact to a Texas Tribune article for further reasons why Texas could not secede by itself.

The Supreme Court ruled in an 1869 case, Texas v. Whitethat states did not have the ability to secede on their own, according to The Texas Tribune. Chief Justice Salmon Chase wrote that the “union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States.”

“The ordinance of secession, adopted by the convention and ratified by a majority of the citizens of Texas, and all the acts of her legislature intended to give effect to that ordinance, were absolutely null. They were utterly without operation in law,” Chase wrote.

Eric McDaniel, an associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Texas Tribune in 2016 that “the legality of seceding is problematic.”

“The Civil War played a very big role in establishing the power of the federal government and cementing that the federal government has the final say in these issues,” McDaniel said.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a proponent of originalism, said in a 2006 letter that “there is no right to secede,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, “one Nation, indivisible.”),”Scalia wrote. “Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.” (RELATED: Did The Supreme Court Ban Condoms?)

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, said in an email to Check Your Fact that the “Supreme Court has held that states generally, including Texas in particular, don’t have the right to secede” and pointed to Texas v. White.

“Now naturally, as a political matter, if the U.S. and any state agree that the state may secede, then such secession may well happen.  And the residents of any state may make political arguments about why they should be entitled to secede.  But it’s not a legal right, at least in the sense of a right that can be enforced in any court,” Volokh said.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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