While it is possible that King v. Burwell will realize its fans’ dream of “driving a stake through the heart of Obamacare,” the better bet is that conservative ideology will trump that political goal, and on terms with which progressives can live.
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The impact of these cases on individual lives’ may be less direct or obvious than in the case of health care or marriage, but it’s no less real. So as you wait to hear what the court will decide in the marriage and health care cases at the end of the month, it’s worth paying attention to the other cases it’s deciding in the meantime. They might be a lot more significant than you think.
Whether same-sex couples in Alabama and 13 other states around the country will continue to be denied the freedom to marry is now up to the U.S. Supreme Court. As Loving shows, this country will always have constitutional outliers when it comes to respecting the fundamental rights of minorities, and that’s where the courts come in. In Loving, as it has in many other cases, the Supreme Court fulfilled its constitutional role as the ultimate guardian of those rights. It must now do the same in Obergefell.
Some justices' decisions are often easy to predict. Roberts used to be one of those, but that’s becoming less so. In many important cases, progressives shouldn’t count him out.
I don't believe that a majority of the justices were convinced today that there's any legitimate reason to deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. And I think they understand how much gay and lesbian couples and our families are harmed by the denial of that right. Our nation is certainly ready for marriage equality, and the Constitution demands no less. I hope and trust that the court agrees.
The 14th Amendment does not permit the voters of a state to impose a badge of inferiority on committed same-sex couples and their families and deny them the right to marry. When the justices hear oral arguments this week, they should remember that the will of the people can't trump the basic guarantees of personal, individual rights set out in the text of the Constitution. It is the Supreme Court's job to enforce the Constitution's guarantee of equality for all.
When the Court considered the scope of the Fourth Amendment’s protections in Riley, it didn’t say it was up to Congress or state legislatures to decide how much privacy Americans enjoy when it comes to their cell phones. Instead, the Court considered the text and history of the Fourth Amendment, as well as the Court’s precedents. The Court should do the same thing this year when it considers the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections in the marriage equality cases.
As America's second founding turns 150, and as the Supreme Court continues to hear cases that draw on its constitutional legacy, it’s important for all of us—including the justices—to remember these forgotten founders and to reflect on their constitutional handiwork. This is nowhere truer than in Obergefell, where the Constitution’s text requires marriage equality.
When the Justices hear oral argument in the marriage equality cases later this month, they should remember Roberts’s advice to “take them at their word.” The Framers made a conscious decision to write the Fourteenth Amendment as a broad guarantee of equality for all, preventing majorities in the states from discriminating against any person or group of persons. It is the Supreme Court’s job to enforce the Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all.
With the Supreme Court about to take up the momentous issue of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples in Obergefell v. Hodges, it’s noteworthy that on April 10 48 years ago, the court heard oral argument in Loving v. Virginia, a case that produced the court’s most important ruling to date vindicating the fundamental right to marry. Loving has figured prominently in recent lower court decisions upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry, and has been relied on in Obergefell by those urging the court to strike down state laws denying that right.