SCOTUS Does Care!

Today, the court upheld all provisions of the Affordable Care Act! In a contentious case before the Supreme Court, regarding the Federal subsidies for health insurance, Chief Justice John Roberts once again defended the Affordable Care Act.

King v. Burwell cuts at the heart of one of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare, for those not in the know). Namely, the idea that people can receive subsidies from the Federal government to sign up for insurance through the health insurance exchange. Currently, people receive a subsidy whether they sign up for health insurance through a state exchange, or through the Federal exchange, set up because many states flat-out refused to set up health insurance exchanges.

Opponents argue that the actual text of the Affordable Care Act only requires subsidies in state exchanges, while the government maintains that if too many people are allowed to opt-out of health insurance, or are forced to because they cannot qualify for the subsidy, only very sick people will have insurance, and our health care system will be back to where it was before Obamacare.

You fearless blogger-with-friends-whose-lives-were-saved-by-Obamacare applauds this decision, as well as the Chief Justice, who at this point is one of the best defenders the Affordable Care Act has, even if he isn't happy about it.

We are fast approaching the final decision days for the Supreme Court, which means the Court will hand down the most high profile decisions of this year's cases. The court has a flair for the dramatic, and typically leaves the most controversial cases until the very end, leaving the rest of us hopelessly refreshing the SCOTUSblog Twitter, and counting down hours until the next decision day.

I'm eagerly awaiting decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that will determine the fate of same-sex marriage. Straight from SCOTUSblog itself, the questions at issue in Obergefell v. Hodges are, does the 14th Amendment require a state to give a marriage license to a gay couple, and if not, does the 14th Amendment at least require a state to recognize gay marriages that were performed in states where they are legal? The 14th Amendment, if you remember from 12th grade government class, contains the famous "Equal Protection Clause" which states that the government cannot "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

In this case, some justices (let's call them Justice Ginsberg, Kagen, Sotomayor and Breyer) argued that to not give gay couples marriage licenses is to have the state confer a second class status on gay couples. The lawyer for the state answered that the prohibition of same-sex marriage was not about punishing gay couples, but about protecting the institution of marriage, which was centered around producing children. Other justices (who I'll call Justice Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia) argued that the definition of traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years, and it wasn't for the court to decide on this issue.

The justices have the option of declaring marriage a constitutional right in all states, by protecting it under the 14th Amendment, ruling that marriages in one state must be recognized in states across the country, or they could find against Obergefell, and rule that his marriage is not valid in states where gay marriage is still illegal (your fearless gay blogger hopes for the first outcome, because it sure would be nice to remove laws that, while they do not explicitly mark gay people as second class citizens, are discriminatory).

Most likely, it will be Justice Kennedy that proves to be the deciding vote in the case, so if anyone has his email, I'd love to try to sway him before Monday, which has been scheduled as the last decision day of the court. Until then, keep refreshing SCOTUSblog for updates. They're much quicker with the legalese than I am!

First Published: June 25, 2016