The Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have been busy little beavers this week. Their rulings are something of a mixed bag … more to raise my hackles than not, but let’s start with the good news.
ACA survives to save more lives
Once again, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, was on the chopping block, and yet again, for the third time, the Court saved it from the Republican hatchet in the case of California v Texas. The most interesting vote in my book was that of Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas, who voted against ACA the first two times it came before the Court, voted in favour of it this time, saying …
“Whatever the act’s dubious history in this court, we must assess the current suit on its own terms. And, here, there is a fundamental problem with the arguments advanced by the plaintiffs in attacking the act — they have not identified any unlawful action that has injured them. Today’s result is thus not the consequence of the court once again rescuing the act, but rather of us adjudicating the particular claims the plaintiffs chose to bring.”
He’s not exactly the head cheerleader for the Act that has allowed so many to have access to healthcare when they otherwise would not have, but a statement of fairness, at least. I was also surprised that Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett voted in favour of ACA this time ‘round. It is estimated that if the Court had struck down ACA, some 21 million people would have lost their access to healthcare. There are still larger issues related to ACA that the Court has not yet addressed, but for now, it lives to see another day, to help people be able to take their sick children to a doctor.
The Court upholds bigotry
This one, Fulton v City of Philadelphia, involved the city of Philadelphia and a Catholic adoption agency who refused to work with same-sex couples. Philadelphia had stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for six members of the court, said that the Catholic agency …
“… seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”
I understand his view, but I still think it is wrong to allow any public agency to discriminate on any basis. It’s a slippery slope … what comes next? Will they confine their selection of potentially adoptive parents to only those with white skin? Or perhaps only those who identify as Catholics? The ‘right’ to freedom of religion is sacrosanct, however it should never infringe on other people’s rights, especially the rights of children to be placed in a loving home.
Human Rights … depends on who’s asking
The third case, Nestlé USA v. Doe, was brought by six citizens of Mali who said they were trafficked into slavery as children. They sued Nestlé USA and Cargill, saying the firms had aided and profited from the practice of forced child labor. Note that the claim itself was not in dispute … it happened. What was in dispute was whether the U.S. corporations involved in human rights violations outside the U.S. could be held accountable.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said the companies’ activities in the United States were not sufficiently tied to the asserted abuses. And that was the end of that. So, corporations can operate facilities to manufacture their product outside the U.S. using child labour, paying next to nothing, and the laws of the U.S. will support their activities. Seems rather odd to me for a nation whose very foundation is built on human rights. A nation who screams bloody murder when a [white] person is denied any right. A nation that is a member of the United Nations, an organization dedicated to human rights around the globe. Hypocrisy? Oh yeah. But then, what would you expect from a nation that is attempting to deny the poor, the elderly, Blacks and other minorities the right to vote?
June is the busiest month for the Supreme Court, the last in its annual term and quite often the most controversial cases are saved for June. One that is on the docket is Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, a case concerning voting rights. The Court will decide whether to uphold Arizona’s racist and restrictive voting laws that allow the state to a) discard ballots cast at the wrong precinct, and b) make ‘ballot harvesting’ a crime.
Next year will be especially confusing for some voters, as newly drawn district maps may change the location of their polling place. So, if John Doe casts his ballot at the same place he did in 2020, not realizing there had been a change in the boundaries of his district, his ballot will be thrown out under the new Arizona law. And if someone collects the ballots from residents of a senior care facility and takes 20 or 30 ballots to the drop box, that person would be in violation of the law and those ballots not counted. Discriminatory as hell!
However, the larger question is whether the ruling will be so broad that it will also effectively endorse new voting laws that states have passed this year. The Court, under Chief Justice John Roberts, has generally sided with Republican state officials when they have restricted voting access. Keep your eye on this one, folks, for it may be the seed that determines whether We the People will continue to have a voice in our government, or whether our civil rights will be jerked out from under us.