The government is shut down but the Supreme Court is hard at work hearing cases for the October Term, 2013. On Tuesday, the high Court heard a case on affirmative action to decide if a State by referendum can ban affirmative action in higher public institutions. The justices will be asked to uphold Michigan’s voter initiative forbidding “preferential” admissions based on race. Other cases that are expected to be heard this term are on abortion rights, gay rights, the Affordable Care Act, search of cell phones upon arrest and prayer at town hall meetings, to name a few.
The case, Schuette vs. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, was heard on Oct. 15 on the question of does it violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection when a state bans such considerations in public-university admissions across the state through a constitutional amendment? Justice Elena Kagan is not participating in the case, but a 4-4 decision would mean the Sixth Circuit’s decision holding the ban unconstitutional would stand, so supporters of the amendment need at least five votes to uphold the amendment.
On the issue of gay rights and religious objection is Elaine Photography v. Willock where a photographer holding out business to the public may refuse to photograph same sex commitment ceremonies on the basis of religion. The previous appleate court’s ruling is that New Mexico businesses that choose to be public accommodations must comply with the NMHRA, although such businesses retain their First Amendment rights to express their religious or political beliefs. They may, for example, post a disclaimer on their website or in their studio advertising that they oppose same-sex marriage but that they comply with applicable anti-discrimination laws.”
The Supreme Court is still deciding on cases to add to its current term. The Supreme Court’s new session will almost certainly see a ruling on state power to limit the use of some abortion-inducing drugs. Arizona’s attorneys asked the court to uphold the state’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a measure that was blocked on the basis of Roe vs. Wade.
The court is also expected to rule on the health law’s mandate that almost all employer health plans cover contraception. By next spring, the justices are likely to revisit part of President Obama’s healthcare law to decide a religious-rights challenge to the requirement that large private employers provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives.
Dozens of employers who run for-profit companies have sued, contending that providing health insurance that includes a full range of contraceptives violates their religious beliefs.
In an interview which I held with BET News, I discuss other Supreme Court cases with their Washington Correspondent, Andre Showell.