It’s going to be a big few weeks in the Supreme Court.
This month, the court is set to decide several high-profile cases whose outcomes will likely touch millions of Americans’ lives.
This term, the court tackled some of the most hotly contested social and political issues of the last few decades, including gay marriage, voting rights, affordable housing, death penalty, and healthcare.
Here are the three most important cases that the court will decide this month:
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court finally heard arguments over the constitutionality of gay marriage.
In Obergefell v. Hodges and several related cases that the court has consolidated, the justices considered whether the remaining 14 states that have not allowed same-sex marriage are required to recognise same-sex marriages from out of state. They will also decide whether there is a constitutional right to gay marriage.
According to a recent Public Research Institute poll, most Americans expect the court to rule in favour of gay marriage. The decision is likely to come down to the court’s key swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy, or Justice John Roberts, who once sided with the liberals in the case that upheld Obamacare.
As the Associated Press notes, if the Supreme Court upholds the rights of states to limit gay marriage to straight couples, that could complicate things. In 20 states, judges have struck down limits on gay marriage, declaring them unconstitutional. If the court rules that the bans are constitutional, gay married couples in these states could find themselves in a legal limbo.
“It would be chaos,” Howard Wasserman, a Florida International University law professor, told the Associated Press.
The second Obamacare case to reach the Supreme Court, King v. Burwell, revolves around whether the Obama administration is entitled to provide healthcare subsidies to millions of Americans living in states that didn’t set up healthcare exchanges on their own.
Several conservative activists brought the case after they discovered that four words in the law appear to suggest that healthcare subsidies wouldn’t be allowed in states that didn’t set up their own exchanges. Obamacare advocates say that this was just clumsy wording, while critics maintain that Democrats were attempting to force states to set up their exchanges.
Either way, if the court sides with the conservative activists, millions of Americans in states that did not set up their own exchanges will essentially no longer be able to pay for their health insurance.
Overturning the law could create two dual healthcare systems. In states that set up their own exchanges, healthcare will be more affordable, while in states that did not, millions will likely be forced off their plans because they can no longer afford premiums.
The Obama administration has said that it has no plan if the court rules against it, though according to the Hill, there are some hints that this may not entirely be true. This week, the White House proposed a one-sentence fix which Republicans in Congress quickly shot down.
King v. Burwell is the second major challenge to Obama’s signature healthcare law to reach the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 ruling in 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal justices and upheld the constitutionality of the law.
This case will decide whether a drug used for lethal injections is unconstitutional.
Oklahoma death row inmates sued to have midazolam removed from the list of approved death penalty drugs. Pointing to several high-profile botched executions, the inmates believe that being subjected to midazolam amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
But some lethal injection proponents argue that the suit is part of a sneaky strategy by death penalty opponents to choke off the ways that the inmates on death row can be legally executed.
During the oral arguments earlier this year, several conservative justices noted that death penalty abolitionists have pressured drug companies not to produce lethal injection drugs, eliminating ways that states can execute death row inmates.
A shortage of lethal injection drugs has helped push this case forward. Several drugs that states previously used for lethal injection are no longer on the market, forcing states to turn to riskier drugs including midazolam.
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