More than 72,000 people have signed on a petition calling for the secession of Texas from the United States, and now the White House will officially be required to form some sort of response to the inquiry.
The Obama administration likely didn’t think it would be responding to secession petitions when it created the “We the People” section of the White House website, which allows citizens to post online petitions and promises to respond to those that receive more than 25,000 signatures.
But just how possible would it actually be for Texas to secede from the union in this day and age?
Possible, but extremely unlikely, according to Jason Sorens, a political science professor at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, who specializes in secessionism.
“Basically, secession isn't banned by the Constitution, and the controlling precedent remains Texas v. White, which says that unilateral secession is illegal, and that secession would require the consent of the United States as a whole,” Sorens said in an e-mail.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1869 decision in Texas v. White came during the aftermath of the American Civil War, the one time in the nation’s history when a handful of individual states successfully broke off from the union to form their own. In the case, the Reconstruction government of Texas claimed the United States bonds owned by Texas had been illegally sold by the Confederate government during the civil war, and therefore subsequent transfers were also invalid.
But the court ruled that Texas had remained a state since joining the union in 1845, despite seceding to join the Confederate States of America. The court also held that the Constitution does not permit states to unilaterally secede from the union.
“It's not clear what would be required to satisfy that consent criterion, but presumably an act of Congress would do it,” Sorens said.
In 2010 the Alaska Supreme Court blocked a ballot initiative that would have allowed residents to vote on secession for that very reason, ruling that secession is “clearly unconstitutional” and because of that, citizens cannot effect constitutional changes through initiatives.
Depending on the poll, anywhere between 10 to 25 percent of Americans believe their state has the right to secede. But that’s unlikely to occur without congressional actions. As the second-most populous state in the nation and the 15th largest economy in the world, it’s unlikely Congress is going to let Texas disengage itself from the union anytime soon.