June is almost over and the Supreme Court has yet to issue opinions on two significant decisions. It is difficult to believe that the Court has waited this long to render its opinions because it needed more time to decide. The Court may have a flair for dramatics but I suspect the summer recess may have something to do with the timing too.
The two cases are about same sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act. Both should be cut and dry but a close 5-4 vote is predicted in both. The only remaining question is which way the 5-4 will fall. Will the Court affirm the right of same sex couples to get married in all 50 States and will the Court affirm the intent gleaned from reading the entire ACA over a narrow reading of 4 words?
Same sex marriage is clearly absent from any reference in the Constitution. For that matter, marriage itself is absent. The concept of civil unions, however, can be inferred and the 14th Amendment would seem to offer the same protection to same sex couples as with heterosexual couples. Allowing States to decide which couples can marry and what benefits each can receive seems inherently un-American in addition to being un-Constitutional.
The Affordable Care Act has become a highly politically charged piece of legislation even though only the shallowest arguments can be made to overturn the law. (To be sure, a European style single payer system would be far superior. The argument to simply repeal ACA, however, reveals an uncaring and insensitive political ideology.)
The Supreme Court was very close in its original opinion supporting ACA. What one might think as a straight forward affirmative decision is not such a sure bet. A negative Court decision would fly in the face of Congressional intent (at the time the law was passed) and would appear to indicate the Court does not believe 6 million people will be hurt by the loss of health coverage. Hmmm.
With the symbolism surrounding these two cases, it is not hard to understand why the Chief Justice would hold back the Court’s decision until the Court’s last day in session. Justice Roberts certainly knows that either way the decision goes, there will be lots of people questioning the Court’s mind.
I guess that’s why we call it the Supreme Court.