In the same way that Brexit happened, and the Scots had a referendum on staying in the UK, what would it take for California to leave the US?

  • 3
    Are you aware that the northern portion of California wants to separate from the rest of the state? Nov 1 '16 at 0:40
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    In short another Civil War. Secession is not a right granted to the States.
    – user9790
    Nov 1 '16 at 1:39
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    @DrunkCynic While I would tend to agree with you, Texas v. White does not. There is actual precedent that states do not have the right to secede. So there would be at least five votes (Roberts plus liberals) against your argument in the current Supreme Court. A pity. California secession seems a great idea to me. I support it wholeheartedly.
    – Brythan
    Nov 1 '16 at 3:22
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    Found this quote from Madison, the author of the Xth. Montpellier, Decr 23, 1832. historum.com/american-history/…
    – user9790
    Nov 1 '16 at 3:31
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    @DrunkCynic - I don't think Montana can do anything that the other states can't. It's constitution just explicitly says that it can leave the union if the US and Montana's citizens agree. Which is what every other state can probably do.
    – Bobson
    Nov 1 '16 at 4:55

There's no "legal" path for a State to become a separate country in the Constitution or any of the laws we currently have, and therefore, such a feat would be impractical at best. Texas v. White brought up that issue for Texas, the the Court found that a State may not unilaterally secede.

A State may only leave legally with the express permission of The United States of America. So, for any State, California or otherwise, to leave, would require either new laws that would require at least majority support from the remaining States, or a military operation to try and assert their independence, which would most likely be a bloodbath for the State attempting to do so. However it happened, it wouldn't be because of any Federal laws we currently have.

This is in contrast to Brexit, where all it required was a simple vote to leave. The European Union has provisions written into it that allow any member to leave if they desire. There was already a law in place to allow a secession to occur, and they decided to utilize that legal exit path regardless of the consequences.

  • Recommend you review the 1st Article of the Montana Constitution, Compact with the United States, and the response of the Montana Legislature to DC v. Heller. Nov 1 '16 at 0:39
  • Also see Calhoun's Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States constitution.org/jcc/dcgus.htm and Webster's Seventh of March Speech dartmouth.edu/~dwebster/speeches/seventh-march.html
    – user9790
    Nov 1 '16 at 1:38
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    Actually the UK hasn't formally decided to utilize the legal exit path yet. They had an advisory referendum, but it is not binding in any way. Theresa May is PM and says she will formally notify the EU in 2017, but there are several lawsuits underway to decide if she actually has the power to do that (parliament thinks this isn't legal before parliament has a vote on it, Northern Ireland thinks its parliament also has to have a vote on it, and so on). Nov 1 '16 at 9:01

Well, first you have to convince Californians that they want to secede.

Since there is no legal provision for this with California (some states may have negotiated deals that allow them to withdraw--although that's disputed), the only way to leave would be a constitutional amendment. Such an amendment could either create a general secession process or create one specifically for California.

To pass an amendment, you need either 2/3 or more of each chamber of Congress or a constitutional convention called by 2/3 or more of the states. Then ratification by 3/4 or more of the states.

You could try to just pass a federal law, but that would not align with most of the wording of the Texas v. White precedent. Same thing with unilateral secession, only more so.

Note that there are some issues to work out. For example, what share of the national debt does California have to pay back? How much Social Security and other trust fund money does it get? What about federal property in California? Does any military stuff go to California? How does citizenship work? Trade? When do Californians stop owing federal taxes? What to do in terms of currency? So on and so forth.


It takes a majority of the California population to agree on the secession.

In theory, any country that defines itself as a (full) democracy should allow such votes.

  • 4
    Your first statement is wrong, since California has no defined mechanism for secession. For all you know, they could adopt one which leaves it up to the governor. Your second statement is opinion and does not address the question Nov 1 '16 at 8:57
  • Citation. The US isn't a democracy. Nov 1 '16 at 10:35

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