Originally Posted by Love
I am not an expert, but I have read that international treaties do trump state laws, and in fact can trump everything but the constitution. I read this has happened in other countries.
Nonsense. IF a country signs an international treaty (and there are plenty that the US has not signed), then it is voluntarily agreeing to the terms of that treaty - which may result in their laws changing.
They may be forced to sign under international pressure (especially smaller, poor nations), but that is a matter for international affairs, not legal direction.
There is a key concept here called Soverignty - this means that the State (as in the government of a particular country) has sole authority to dictate laws and governance on matters affecting its citizens and within its borders. It can voluntarily comply with international law which dictates laws or governance on certain matters within its borders, but State Soverignty is an enshrined feature of international law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soverignty
This means that the UN cannot go to Canada or Burundi or anywhere in the world and say "You can't do X to your own citizens". They can strongly suggest, they can cut off funding, or promise funding if the State changes the law. But legally, no external agent (be it a multi-lateral such as the UN or world bank or a single country like the US) can actually legally force another country to change its laws within its own boundaries. IF a law affects citizens of another nation or crosses borders, then international law might come into play, but its legality is limited to extra-border/extra-citizen impact
There is no way that any country would voluntarily give up state soverignty as a defacto right to the UN - they have to voluntarily agree to any international law.
The only example we currently have of countries voluntarily giving up Soverignty is the EU, where european countries have voluntarily given up their sovereignty of selected areas to the European Union. But even there, there are many many areas (especially family and social law) which remain within the sovereignty of each state.
In addition, there are multiple examples where a country has signed an international treaty and clearly not complied either explicitly or implicitly. THe only way to enforce the treaty is to take away the benefits to the non-compliant signers (many receive substantial financial aid packages as a result of their signatures).
Anyhow, the US is not in the habit to take recommendations from the UN and wholesale incorporate them into their legal systems. We barely tolerate the UN as it is, despite the fact that we are the most powerful individual country on the Security council.
Even if the US agreed to a UN based treaty on family law, there would also be serious questions of whether Congress really has the right to overrule US state law, when the juristidiction for family law has traditionally rested with each state.
Looking forward to more information from anyone with international law experience (I am remembering all this from my college days learning about International Affairs)