SALT LAKE CITY — An online petition to secede from the United States of America is sparking some interest across the country. People from several states have started petitions, including one here in Utah.
Many of the states involved are southern states, with Texas leading the way. That state has gainined more than 23,000 of the 25,000 signatures needed to trigger a legal response from Washington, D.C.
Is secession really possible?
by Carole Mikita
Secession is something most of us have only read about in history books, but "history repeats itself" could be the phrase of the day.
One week after the re-election of President Barack Obama, dozens of petitions calling for secession from the Union are circulating on the Internet. But a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1869, involving Texas, shows how impossible secession really is.
Most of us say that after the Civil War, the Southern states were readmitted to the Union. But according to the decision in Texas v. White, they never really left.
Reconstruction government of Texas filed suit about bonds it claimed were illegally sold by the Confederate state legislature during the Civil War.
The case became a landmark decision with its ruling that Texas had entered into an indissoluble relation with the Union, and despite the ordinance of secession "the state did not cease to be a state, nor her citizens to be citizens of the Union."
"Their bond holders had no chance of recovery because it was illegal for Texas to issue bonds in support of rebellion," said Wayne McCormack, a constitutional law professor at the University of Utah.
McCormack said it's not just the Civil War or this Supreme Court decision. "It's hundreds of decisions, both by congress and the courts, that individual components are part of a single, economic entity," he said.
Considering the history of the word "secession" in American history, many are disturbed by the petitions' potentially racist undertone.
"They want to secede from the Union, and of course you think about slavery and the Civil War and all of type of things," said Jeanetta Williams, executive director of the NAACP of Utah. "It's very disheartening, especially since it's been one week today since the election."
"You'll never get rid of racism any more than you'll get rid of poverty and any more than you'll get rid of crime or anything else negative in our society," McCormack said. "But it's not going to dominate, that's not the way of the future."
How big this situation becomes remains to be seen. KSL News spoke with a number of experts Tuesday, and they all believe these secession petitions are simply distractions that will flare on social media, but are not serious.
So far, Utah only has a few thousand signatures: a relatively small number, but a sign of the deep emotions triggered by the president's re-election.
If you say the word "secession," it makes a lot of people think of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. His election sparked just one of several efforts by states to drop out of the Union. It was trumpeted in headlines at the time and sparked the Civil War.
Now, thousands of U.S. citizens feel President Obama's election calls for the same thing.
"In the week after the election, instead of the Tea Party movement, or the birther movement, we see a resurrection of the secession movement," said Tim Chambless, outreach coordinator for the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Tea partiers in 30 states, including Utah, started the online secession petitions.
Derek Belcher, with the Alabama Tea Party, explained, "It says: ‘We petition the Obama administration to peacefully grant the state of Alabama to withdraw from the United States of America and start its own new government.'"
In Utah, there are a few thousand electronic signatures recorded — though its supporters were not easily found Tuesday. But there are plenty of people willing to talk about how ridiculous they think the whole idea is.
"I just don't see how it has practical application," said Frederic Purthill. "It just doesn't seem to make sense at this point."
Mitt Romney's loss was painful for some people to watch; but even among those feeling that loss, like Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright, say secession is an overreaction.
"I think it's an unfortunate reaction to the election," Wright said. "People need to rally around the people we elected, and I plan to do that today."
KSL News also reached out to Gov. Gary Herbert for his thoughts. He said Utah has "no plans to withdraw from a nation we love; we will continue to earnestly engage in constructive dialog around the issues most critical to Utah."