Can states' rights end the culture war? Commentators from David Brooks to Andrew Sullivan to David Gelernter believe that it can. According to Sullivan, in an essay in The New Republic, "The whole point of federalism is that different states can have different public policies on matters of burning controversy–and that this is okay."
A federal approach to cultural issues might worsen things, at least in the near term. As we saw in the Terry Schiavo case, separating state from national issues won't be easy. Federalism works when jurisdiction is clear, but cultural issues create murky and contentious jurisdictional controversies. That has allowed our advocacy groups to make federal cases of them.
It might be healthy for our body politic to return these issues to the states, for principled contention and compromise are essential parts of citizenship. If we go that way, the transition will not be easy. We should not pretend it will be otherwise.
TDAXP rightly points out that a USAv3 would require a strong federalist philosophy. By keeping local issues local and by loosening up on centralization tendencies. Federalism is hard in practice. It is easy to say theoretically on some issue that are are morally opposed to it, but will consent to geographic neighbor practicing it.
Take prostitution. My libertarian (small-L) tendencies say it should be allowed as long as it remains discreet. In practice…when I was 20 years old and working summers for the local city in which I live, I discovered a prostitution service fronting as a tailoring store (closed, but the phone number was large to call for appointments). While my truck went around the block (it was too big to make a U-turn), I saw the prostitute emerge, make the deal, and enter the car for a lunch time noon-er. I was amused. Then that evening I told my buddy's Dad what I saw (he was a local Police Detective). This was rather minor in all, but when push went to shove I didn't like it happening in my city.
Before any USAv3 can happen, the USA needs to start moving back to federalism now. Federalism must be re-embraced as a core principle of the American Political System.