Supreme Court

Richard Wolf 11-13-2015

Image via Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock / RNS

Nearly a quarter-century after its last major ruling on abortion created a fragile balance between women’s rights and government restrictions, the Supreme Court appears ready for a rematch.

And like the last time, the debate would unfold in the midst of a presidential election.

The first act could play out as early as Nov. 13, when the justices may decide whether to hear a challenge to tough new limits placed on abortion clinics and doctors in Texas. The restrictions — forcing doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and requiring clinics to measure up to outpatient surgery centers — threaten to leave the state with just 10 clinics clustered in four population centers and along the Mexican border.

Richard Wolf 9-01-2015

Image via Mike Wynn / The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal / RNS

The Supreme Court refused Aug. 31 to let a Kentucky county clerk deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of what she said were her religious beliefs.

The ruling, made without comment or any apparent dissents, is an early indication that while some pushback against gay marriage on religious grounds may be upheld, the justices won’t tolerate it from public officials.

Michael Mershon 8-07-2015
Justice

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock 

THIS SUMMER’S ATTEMPT to dismantle the Affordable Care Act began as the very height of frivolous lawsuits. Cooked up with the help of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, the case (King v. Burwell) depended upon a very narrow reading of four words in Section 36B of the ACA: “established by the State.”

Essentially, Obamacare foes argued that Congress intended to provide health-care subsidies (or tax credits) only to those Americans living in states with state-operated insurance exchanges. Those who lived in states without exchanges—including Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, and others—and were, therefore, dependent upon the federal exchange would be ineligible for subsidies.

Of course, Congress intended no such thing—as the Supreme Court upheld. Throughout dozens of hearings and hundreds of hours of debate, it was clear that ACA subsidies would be available to every American, regardless of what state they lived in.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court rejected King, with Chief Justice Roberts explaining, “A fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Had the suit carried the day, 6.4 million Americans would have lost their subsidies. 

Adelle M. Banks / RNS

The Rev. James C. Perkins. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Fifty years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, the president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention said black churches will be redoubling efforts to maintain access to the ballot box.

The act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson 50 years ago Aug. 6, was a crowning achievement of the civil rights movement. But in 2013 the Supreme Court invalidated key provisions, and many states, nearly all of them under Republican control, passed new voting restrictions that critics say target minority voters.

6-15-2015
As the Supreme Court is poised to rule on same-sex marriage, evangelical Christian leaders are expressing opposing viewpoints, even though polls show a majority of the movement's rank-and-file oppose it.
the Web Editors 6-12-2015
Image via lev radin/shutterstock.com

Image via lev radin/shutterstock.com

By the end of June — and as early as next week — the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of gay marriage nationwide. In a pre-emptive move to refocus narrative and legislative control at the state level, two states this week enacted laws designed to protect religious objection to same-sex couples. Here's how.

Photo via Public Religion Research Institute / RNS

Legal status of, and support for, same-sex marriage in each state. Photo via Public Religion Research Institute / RNS

Most Americans — including people from every major religious group — predict gay marriage will be legalized nationwide when a hotly anticipated Supreme Court ruling is announced later this month.

Among those who favor legalizing same-sex marriage, 80 percent think the high court will rule their way, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute released June 11. And among those who oppose gay marriage, 47 percent say that’s the likely outcome, too.

Photo via REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst / RNS

Sister Carol Keehan greets President Barack in Washington on June 9, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst / RNS

With some members of Congress and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in the audience, Obama’s speech was entirely about the success of his signature legislation and the need to keep it alive.

Obama recited statistics on how many uninsured are now covered and on the economic value of “portable plans in a competitive marketplace.” But he anchored his speech in the faith-based association’s moral calling.

“What kind of country do we want to be?” he asked in a series of rhetorical questions:

Is access to care a commodity “only for the highest bidders?” Or is it “a fundamental right?”

Richard Wolf 6-09-2015
Photo courtesy of Shai Halevi / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Shai Halevi / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

The Supreme Court on June 8 declined to insert itself into the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian issue by second-guessing U.S. policy on Jerusalem.

Ruling just a few months after a feud between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the justices refused to allow Americans born in Jerusalem to have their passports changed to reflect Israel as their birthplace, as Congress demanded more than a decade ago.

In denying the challenge waged by the Jewish parents of a 12-year-old almost since his birth in 2002, a majority of justices heeded the State Department’s warning that a simple passport alteration could “provoke uproar throughout the Arab and Muslim world.”

Richard Wolf 6-01-2015
Photo via Emily Hardman, Becket Fund / RNS

Samantha Elauf outside of the Supreme Court on Feb. 25, 2015. Photo via Emily Hardman, Becket Fund / RNS

The Supreme Court ruled June 1 that companies cannot discriminate against job applicants or employees for religious reasons, even if an accommodation is not requested.

The decision was a defeat for preppy clothier Abercrombie & Fitch, which refused to hire a Muslim girl in 2008 because she was wearing a black hijab, or head scarf. It could benefit job applicants and employees who need time off for religious observances as well as those who adhere to strict dress codes.

 

 

Photo via REUTERS / Allison Shelley / RNS

Franklin Graham speaks at an evangelistic rally in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2011. Photo via REUTERS / Allison Shelley / RNS

Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Samaritan’s Purse charity, describes Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the subject of his latest post, as the daughter of immigrants who made good on the American dream.

“Unfortunately,” the post continues, “she is also an example of someone who seems to be very misguided on the issue of same-sex marriage. She voted to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2014, and homosexual advocates consider her an ally in their fight to make same-sex marriage the law of the land.”

Richard Wolf 5-19-2015
Photo via Mary Schwalm / USA Today / RNS

Hillary Goodridge, right, and Julie Goodridge talk about their hope for the future. Photo via Mary Schwalm / USA Today / RNS

Same-­sex marriage is so last decade in Massachusetts. These days, the earliest pioneers in gay and lesbian matrimony are demonstrating how to raise kids, retire — even divorce.

As the Supreme Court wrestles with what Chief Justice John Roberts last month labeled a redefinition of marriage, the couples who successfully challenged the Bay State’s ban on gay marriage in 2003 are juggling work and retirement, raising kids who turn down Ivy League colleges, and holding joyful family reunions.

Rick Jervis 5-12-2015
Texas flag. Photo via argus / Shutterstock.com

Texas flag. Photo via argus / Shutterstock.com

The U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing arguments in the same-sex marriage case it heard on April 28 that could lead to a landmark decision requiring all states to acknowledge the unions.

But don’t count Texas out without a fight.

State lawmakers are considering at least five bills designed to block same-sex marriages, which are currently illegal in the state, and some state leaders say they’ll battle to bar the unions regardless of any Supreme Court decision.

Gay Clark Jennings 5-06-2015
Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Ikeita Cantu, left, and Carmen Guzman, of McLean, Va., hold signs in front of the Supreme Court. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

People who argue against marriage equality frequently do so for religious reasons, even if they cast their argument in secular terms. While I believe there are strong constitutional arguments for striking down bans on marriage equality, I support striking down these bans because of my faith, not in spite of it.

For too long, religious institutions have contributed to the scourge of homophobia that fuels the discrimination that this case seeks to strike down. Far too many of us are familiar with the discrimination, fear, and violence that gay and lesbian people have suffered while people of faith turned a blind eye or, worse yet, acted as perpetrators.

Kevin Eckstrom 4-28-2015
RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Ikeita Cantu, left, and Carmen Guzman, of McLean, Va., hold signs in front of the Supreme Court. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON — As the nine Supreme Court justices took up the vexing question of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage on Tuesday, the case came down to two competing visions of marriage: what it’s been, what it should be, and who gets to decide.

Outside the court, hundreds of demonstrators echoed both sides: Amateur evangelists and anti-gay zealots with signs proclaiming, “Man & Woman: United for Life, Open to Life,” and throngs of gay rights supporters chanting “Love Must Win!” to drown out the sidewalk preachers with their megaphones.

Yet ultimately, beyond both the arcane and real-life arguments over the state’s sanction of private relationships, the court must decide the very nature and purpose of marriage — or at least which nature will be reflected in civil law.

Richard Wolf 4-23-2015
Photo via REUTERS / Mark Makela / RNS

A boy holds up a sign during a rally by gay rights supporters in Harrisburg, Pa. in 2014. Photo via REUTERS / Mark Makela / RNS

It is perhaps the most controversial component of the national debate over same-sex marriage: Who should raise children?

The judge who wrote the decision upholding gay marriage bans in four Midwest states gave at least some same-sex couples a shoutout last fall, even while ruling against them. His ruling is being appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments April 28.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s words have done little to quell the war of statistics and academic studies that has raged for years over the relative child-rearing skills of gay and straight parents.

Dozens of briefs submitted to the court cite scores of scientific studies on the subject. Some show that children raised in same-sex households fare no worse than those raised by mothers and fathers. Others say the differences are stark in areas ranging from emotional development to high school graduation rates and success at work.

The judge who looked most closely at the two sides’ arguments wasn’t Sutton but U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who conducted a two-week trial last year to consider April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse’s lawsuit against Michigan’s gay marriage ban. He came down firmly on the side of studies showing no difference between gay and heterosexual child-rearing.

Researchers claiming negative outcomes for children of same-sex couples “clearly represent a fringe viewpoint that is rejected by the vast majority of their colleagues across a variety of social science fields,” Friedman wrote.

While rejecting the “fringe” label, some conservatives acknowledge that sufficient research has not been done to show that same-sex parenting harms children’s development. They contend the question remains open to debate.

Susan Page 4-21-2015
Photo via Adelle M. Banks/RNS

Plaintiffs Sandy Stier and Kristin Perry kiss on June 26, 2013 as they leave the Supreme Court. Photo via Adelle M. Banks/RNS

The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in a landmark case on gay marriage, but most Americans already have made up their minds: There’s no turning back.

In a nationwide USA Today/Suffolk University poll, those surveyed say by 51 percent to 35 percent that it’s no longer practical for the Supreme Court to ban same-sex marriages because so many states have legalized them.

One reason for a transformation in public views on the issue: close to half say they have a gay or lesbian family member or close friend who is married to someone of the same sex.

Kraig Ziegler, 58, of Flagstaff, Ariz., acknowledged being a bit uncomfortable when he attended a wedding reception for two men, friends of his wife, who had married.

“I still believe what the Bible says, ‘one man, one woman,’ ” the mechanic, who was among those polled, said in a follow-up interview.

On the other hand, he said, “I got to know the guys, and they’re all right. They don’t make passes or anything at me.”

Now he calls himself undecided on the issue.

In the survey, a majority — 51 percent 35 percent — favor allowing gay men and lesbians to marry, and those who support the idea feel more strongly about it than those who oppose it: 28 percent “strongly favor” same-sex marriage, 18 percent “strongly oppose” it. Fourteen percent are undecided.

Jennifer Dobner 4-17-2015
Josh and Lolly Weed and their three daughters. Image via RNS/courtesy Josh Weed.

Josh and Lolly Weed and their three daughters. Image via RNS/courtesy Josh Weed.

A Mormon man and woman in a mixed-orientation marriage are objecting to their inclusion in a U.S. Supreme Court case filing because it argues that legalized gay marriage would demean marriages like theirs.

Josh and Lolly Weed’s names and statements are referenced in a “friend of the court” brief ahead of the April 28 arguments in a consolidated 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case, which many expect will legalize gay marriage nationwide.

The brief was filed April 3 on behalf of couples in mixed-orientation marriages — unions in which one partner is gay and the other is not — who oppose marriage equality.

The Weeds told The Salt Lake Tribune on April 14 they didn’t consent to be included in the filing, nor do they share its view.

Among the filing’s arguments: Constitutionally mandated same-sex marriages can exist only by “erasing, marginalizing and demeaning the same-sex attracted who live in man-woman marriages” and would send a “harmful message that it is impossible, unnatural, and dangerous for the same-sex attracted to marry members of the opposite sex.”

“What does that have to do with us at all?” asked Josh Weed, an openly gay man who has been married to a woman for 12 years.

“I feel no devaluation of my marriage status by having marriage equality.”

The Weeds, of Washington state, became the public face of Mormon mixed-orientation marriage in 2012, when they posted their story on Josh’s blog, joshweed.com. They do not advocate mixed-orientation marriages for others.

“My wife and I support marriage equality,” Josh Weed said.

Ron Csillag 4-16-2015
Photo via Peregrine981 /  Wikimedia Commons / RNS

The Supreme Court of Canada building. Photo via Peregrine981 / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that a small town in Quebec may not open its council meetings with prayer.

In a unanimous ruling April 15, Canada’s highest court ruled that the town of Saguenay can no longer publicly recite a Catholic prayer because it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The case dates back to 2007, when a resident of Saguenay complained about public prayer at City Hall.

Just last year, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that legislative bodies such as city councils could begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.

But the Canadian high court ruled that the country’s social mores have “given rise to a concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs. The state must instead remain neutral in this regard. This neutrality requires that the state neither favor nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non belief.”

The court said a nondenominational prayer is still religious in nature and would exclude nonbelievers.

Richard Wolf 4-14-2015
Photo via The Enquirer / Carrie Cochran / USA Today / RNS

Jim Obergefell of Cincinnati is photographed in his living room. Photo via The Enquirer / Carrie Cochran / USA Today / RNS

Jim Obergefell and John Arthur spent more than two decades living quietly together. They were never gay rights activists. Most of their friends weren’t even gay.

“John and I always joked that we were bad gays,” Obergefell recalled, “because the vast majority of our friends are straight couples.”

But when the Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2013, that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages, two new activists suddenly were born — one of whom now stands at the threshold of legal history.

Fifteen days after the high court’s ruling — with Arthur in the final stages of Lou Gehrig’s Disease — the couple flew to Maryland on a medically equipped jet to be legally married on the tarmac. Then they flew back home and learned their marriage would not be recognized in Ohio.

“All I thought was, ‘This isn’t right. I’m p—ed off,'” Obergefell, 48, says now, sitting in the silence of his art-filled condominium in Cincinnati’s historic Over the Rhine district.

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