By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – The U.S. Supreme Court has ended its first year in its current form without rulings that Republicans hoped for, and liberal Democrats feared, from transgender issues to challenging critical parts of Obamacare.
Eight months ago, liberals were declaring the imminent end of America over the replacement of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Justice Amy Coney Barrett. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for conservatives.
In one of the latest liberal-leaning examples, the Supreme Court declined last week to hear a case about the rights of a transgender student. His school denied him access to the bathroom of his choice. The ruling left in place a lower court’s decision to side with the student by declaring the school’s actions unlawful.
Also, last week, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a Christian florist who refused to serve a gay couple’s wedding. The woman, Barronelle Stutzman, runs Arlene’s Flowers, a Washington flower shop. She said she could not make a flower arrangement for a wedding because it would violate her Christian beliefs.
The incident occurred in 2013 before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in its landmark 2015 decision Obergefell versus Hodges case. In Stutzman’s case, the state of Washington imposed a $1,000 fine on her for refusing to make the flower arrangement. The state Supreme Court upheld the fine.
Stutzman’s lawyers claimed Washington violated her right to religious expression as well as her free speech rights. The case showed similarities to that of Masterpiece Cakeshop, which involved Denver baker Jack Phillips. The Christian refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. Phillips won a 2018 case at the Supreme Court, but he continued to face lawsuits.
Earlier, in June, the Supreme Court court ruled in “California versus Texas” that a coalition of Republic-led states “lacked the standing” to challenge critical parts of “Obamacare.” That came as a setback to those challenging the overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system by former President Barack Obama.
The court decided by a large margin to avoid the case, with only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito wanting to hear it. All three of former President Donald Trump’s appointees — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — and Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberals to turn down the case.
The cases underscored observations by The Economist. It called the current Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts a “3-3-3 court,” saying rulings were “less one-sided than liberals feared.”
Under the “3-3-3 model”, the Supreme Court is split into the liberal faction, comprised of Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan; the conservative section of Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch; and the expected swing vote of Justice Roberts along with the somewhat unexpected swing votes of Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett.
The court now has six appointees of Republican presidents and a diminished liberal bloc of three justices following the death of Justice Ginsburg in September.
Despite political tensions over the court, the justices avoided entangling themselves in various challenges to voting results and procedures in several swing states. That gave Joe Biden the presidency, according to commentators.
However, there was some good news for conservatives earlier this month in a religious liberty dispute. The court ruled 9-0 in rejection of the city of Philadelphia’s attempt to ban a Catholic adoption agency from participating in the local government’s adoption-referral service because it refused to place adoptees with same-sex couples.
That ruling was seen as a victory for religious freedom.
Yet, the court has still to rule on other contentious cases that challenge Roe versus Wade, which effectively decriminalized abortion in most cases. One such abortion case may be on its way, with conservatives hoping that they “aren’t let down” there as well.
The expected case centers around Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to sign into this month a measure that would prohibit in Texas abortions as early as six weeks.
Critics say that is before some women know they are pregnant, opening the door for almost any private citizen to sue abortion providers and others.
Abortion rights advocates have promised to challenge the new law. They consider the legislation one of the most extreme nationwide and the strictest in Texas since the landmark Roe versus Wade decision in 1973. It would amount to an outright ban on abortions, as the six-week cutoff is two weeks after a missed menstrual cycle, opponents say.
The law takes effect in September, as a new turbulent season is expected for the Supreme Court.
Amid the controversy, Biden-supporting lawmakers and activists have demanded 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer to step down.
That would give President Biden a chance to ensure a 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote the opportunity to confirm his replacement on the Supreme Court.
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