United States Constitution
PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution
Article IV: The Full Faith and Credit Clause
Text of Constitution:
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
The 'Travis Translation' of Constitution:
Each State will honor every other States’ public acts, their records, and their legal reports. The Congress will make laws to decide how to check on such acts, records, and reports. Congress will decide how to test these records and how effective they are.
This clause is essential to the federal system set up by the Constitution. The national government makes laws that affect the country as a whole. But the ratification of the Constitution did not undue the laws of the various states. In many respects, the states retained their sovereignty. But, unlike federal law, which is uniform throughout the country, laws on a particular issue in one state may not be the same as laws on that issue in another. In fact, one state’s laws may be diametrically opposed to the laws of a neighboring state.
The Full Faith and Credit Clause ensures that, no matter the differences among state laws, those laws are still respected in other states. For example, if a man in New Jersey is ordered by a New Jersey court to pay a certain amount of money – but he flees to New York before he pays – a court in New York would be bound to enforce the New Jersey judgement. This is so even if New York law does not recognize whatever proceeding took place in New Jersey. One state’s judgments are given ‘full faith and credit’ in another.
Moreover, the second provision of the clause goes one step further. It authorizes Congress to pass laws to help states access and recognize other states’ judgments and records.