The future of same-sex marriage and President Obama’s health care law hang in the balance as the Supreme Court’s 2014 term draws rapidly to a close this month. But those aren’t the only big issues on the justices’ plate.
Free speech and fair elections. Religious liberty and racial discrimination. Clean air and capital punishment. All await rulings over the next three weeks as the court completes action on 20 cases remaining this term. The next decisions will come Monday morning.
Here’s a look at the Elite Eight:
• Same-sex marriage. In a decision likely to come on the term’s last day — possibly June 29 or 30 — the court will decide whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry or whether state bans against same-sex marriage can remain in place.
Six cases from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky have been consolidated for the court’s consideration. In them, 32 total plaintiffs are asking for the right to marry or to have marriages licensed elsewhere recognized in their home states. Most legal experts predict the court, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, will rule in favor of the gay and lesbian couples.
• Obamacare. The future of Obama’s health care law is on the line for the second time in three years, and it’s anyone’s guess how the court will rule.
Passed in 2010 and narrowly upheld by the court in a 5-4 ruling in 2012, the law has extended health insurance to 12 million Americans. But four words in its lengthy text — “established by the state” — now endanger federal subsidies relied upon by 6.4 million participants in 34 states that did not create their own exchanges or marketplaces. The justices must decide whether the law prohibits that financial aid.
• Clean air. Environmental regulations approved by the Obama administration regularly come before the Supreme Court, and this year is no exception. A major rule requiring coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants hangs in the balance.
The justices appeared closely divided on the central issue in the case — whether the Environmental Protection Agency should have considered the nearly $10 billion annual cost in relation to the potential benefits before approving the regulation — when it was argued. A decision in favor of objecting states and utilities could send the EPA back to the drawing board.
• Housing discrimination. The third time could be the charm for the court’s conservatives, who tried twice in recent years to consider cases challenging the way housing bias claims are decided.
Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, minority groups have been able to win lawsuits by showing that housing practices — such as sales, rentals, zoning and lending — have a disparate impact on minorities. Housing industry opponents challenging the law say it was intended only to ban intentional discrimination.
Source: USA Today | Richard Wolf