SCOTUS has had the opportunity this session to make a big impact on the face of American politics with three big cases: Fisher v. University of Texas, United States v. Windsor, and Hollingsworth v. Perry. As of this morning, we have one down, two to go, and are being faced with a real disappointment.
In the first case, Fisher v. U Texas, SCOTUS ultimately made the decision to let the state of Texas make the decision. Way to kick the Affirmative Action can down the road. We will have to wait to see what Texas ultimately chooses to do with this case (although some of us have a guess already).
Regarding the other two cases, we have not yet had a decision announced. My question to the Court is: what’s the hold up? Is SCOTUS afraid to make a landmark decision, afraid of getting their hands dirtied in these politically muddied waters, or are they legitimately undecided on the matter?
This is a politically charged time for the Court. Their last session saw two major decisions, including National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (Obamacare) and Arizona v. United States (immigration). It is possible that, despite themselves, they are becoming more politically savvy and using more finely tuned discretion in their decision-making process, and in the process are becoming as politically concerned as the legislative and executive branches.
Our Court has dealt with very high stakes cases before and come out the other side on the right side of history. Take Roe v. Wade for example. That case came about at a point in our history where our laws were unable to deal with the social and moral situation that was arising on the popular stage. Citizens and their state courts were unable to handle such a divisive social issue. I think we’re at a point now with the LGBTQ rights issue that it is time for intervention from the national judicial level.
These cases boil down to the issue of basic human rights. The entire fight for LGBTQ rights has its basis in upholding and fighting for basic human rights, and from there it branches out to argue for more specific rights, like custody or employment. It would lend legal gravity to these relationships; the moral recognition will follow later.
As a country we’re necessarily on a trajectory toward greater equality. We live in a society that values the ideas of freedom of expression and freedom of speech and believes both are critically important. In practice, one usually picks up where the other one ends. In only rare and unusual circumstances have we chosen to actively take rights away; eventually we come back to correct our judicial errors. I would like for the Supreme Court’s decision this week to be that landmark that gets us over that hump to provide greater access to the same rights, and not a mistake we need to revisit and correct somewhere down the road.
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