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Seceding from Union Petitions

Posted by: on Wed, Nov 14, 2012

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Historian: Seceding illegal under Nevada law

By Ed Vogel

Posted: Nov. 14, 2012
CARSON CITY – Nevada’s constitution blocks people from trying to secede from the United States and the more than 8,000 people who have signed a petition to secede could be guilty of “sedition,” a longtime Nevada historian said Wednesday.

Guy Rocha, the former state archivist, said that when Nevada became a state during the Civil War, a “paramount allegiance” clause was added to its constitution under which the state and its residents gave up any right to secede from the union.

“It was a prerequisite for statehood and the federal government may employ force to require obedience,” he said.

Rocha said a move by the We The People organization and residents such as Las Vegan Stan Vaughan to have people sign petitions to secede from Nevada could be interpreted as sedition if “we take what they are doing seriously.”

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, 8,662 people had signed the Nevada secession petition that can be found on the White House website. Now 45 states have similar petitions. The petitions went up on the White House website the day after President Barack Obama was re-elected.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge, was traveling Wednesday and not immediately available for comment on the Nevada secession petition. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who Sandoval endorsed for president, said Tuesday he opposes Texas’ secession petition.

Vaughan, who was an Independent American Party candidate for Congress, said Wednesday he is well aware of the paramount allegiance clause in the Nevada constitution but considers it “totally unconstitutional (contrary to the U.S. Constitution).”

“All states have to have the same rights of the original 13 states,” he said. “This was one of the conditions they put in for Nevada to become a state. Only two states, Nevada and Mississippi, have it. You cannot say one state has the right to secede and another doesn’t.”

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1868 that Texas and other states could not secede from the union. They found that secession can be accompanied only through a revolution or by an agreement among the states, such as a constitutional amendment supported by three-fourths of the states’ legislatures.

Rocha acknowledged that before the Civil War, states were not required to have paramount allegiance clauses in their constitutions. When Nevada, the Battle Born State, entered the union during the Civil War, the United States was at war with the Southern states that seceded and wanted to prevent any additional secession moves by other states, he noted.

“This all sounds wacky,” said Rocha about the new secession movement. “But it is a serious challenge to our constitution. We fought a Civil War over this. Fundamentally they are doing the same thing that the Southern states did when they seceded from the union.”

But Vaughan noted that the U.S. Constitution gives citizens of Nevada and other states “all the privileges and immunities of citizens” in all the other states. It is unconstitutional for Nevada to have a paramount allegiance clause forbidding secession when other states do not have similar clauses, he added.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.