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Image: Southern Coalition for Social Justice

In case you missed it, the U.S. Supreme Court took actually issued a promising 5-4 ruling yesterday in the challenge to Alabama’s racially gerrymandered redistricting plan.

Moreover, as the good folks at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice explain in the statement below, the decision could have a significant and positive impact in the challenge to the unconstitutional “Rucho plan” now in effect in North Carolina:

“U.S. SUPREME COURT’S DECISION IN ALABAMA REDISTRICTING CASE HAS IMPLICATIONS FOR NORTH CAROLINA’S REDISTRICTING PLANS

In a win for voting rights advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court today put the brakes on using explicit racial criteria in redistricting. The 5 to 4 decision constrained the cynical use of the Voting Rights Act to justify race-based redistricting that minimizes the voting strength of minority voters—a strategy employed by several Southern states in the 2010 redistricting cycle.

The Court ruled that race predominated in the Alabama legislature’s redistricting of state house and senate districts when it moved black voters into majority-minority districts in order to prevent the percentage of minority voters from declining. Read More

Commentary

Health careCharlotte Observer reporter Ann Doss Helms makes things perfectly clear this morning just how big the stakes will be this week when the U.S. Supreme Court hears the King v. Burwell case challenging the lawfulness of Affordable Care Act health insurance subsidies in states like North Carolina.

“More than 500,000 North Carolinians stand to lose subsidized health coverage based on a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that goes to the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

Also at stake is the financial stability of the insurance companies, medical professionals and others that have come to count on the federal money the act provides to help low- and moderate-income people who don’t have workplace health coverage.”

And as was explained in last week’s N.C. Policy Watch Weekly Briefing, that could be just the beginning of our problems if the Court opts to provoke a crisis because of what amounts to a typo.

Fortunately, congressional Republicans have a contingency plan if the Court really issues such a terrible ruling…NOT. As Ezra Klein argues this morning on Vox, Congress isn’t at all likely to be able address the crisis if the Court sets it in motion:

“If the Court rules against the Obama administration, the outcome is perfectly predictable: nothing will happen. Some Republicans will come up with some plan to gut Obamacare that the Obama administration could never accept. The Obama administration will ask Republicans to simply fix the law, which they’ll never do. The two sides will blame each other just as always happens, and their attached partisans will think their side has the better of the argument, just as always happens. We have seen this movie before.”

Let’s fervently hope, however, that the Court does the right thing and if it doesn’t, Klein is wrong.

News
(Source:  Freedomtomarry.org and Mic via Vox.com)

(Source: Freedom to Marry and Mic via Vox)

Color the state of Florida red in the maps above, as a state court judge in Miami-Dade County today allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry there.  The judge’s action followed an August 21 federal court ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, a decision which the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently refused to stay.

That makes 36 states now where same-sex marriage is legal, including North Carolina, which followed suit after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond overturned Virginia’s marriage ban in July 2014 — a decision that was binding here and in all other states in the circuit.

Another nine states have court rulings pending appeal.

Against that backdrop, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider petitions for review from five states — Tennessee, Louisiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky — at conference on January 9, and it is likely that the court will take at least one, given that conflicting decisions have now been issued by federal courts of appeal.

Read the Vox update on where each state stands here, and read more from Freedom to Marry on the cases pending before the Supreme Court here.

Commentary

As we report below the US Supreme Court has decided to hear another legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

You can read the details of the lawsuit in our earlier post, but some context is important. This new fight focuses on subsidies extended to individuals and families earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level who purchase private insurance. For these families subsidies are available to make insurance plans more affordable. In North Carolina about 91 percent of people purchasing Affordable Care Act plans received subsidies. Of those, the average cost of insurance is $81 per month.

News coverage of the Supreme Court’s move, coming just before open enrollment is set to start, is sure to cause confusion. In the short term it is critical to remember that the subsidies are still in place and everyone should proceed to shop for insurance without worrying about the political winds.

In the long term it is difficult to know what this case will mean for the law. The challenge is absurd, but that doesn’t give us any hint at how the Supreme Court Justices will vote. Read More

News

Supreme courtYesterday in a 2-1 decision the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio became the first federal appeals court to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriage. In doing so, it created the split among federal circuits needed to get a marriage equality case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices already considered a flurry of cases early in the term — including one from the Fourth Circuit — but declined to take any up for review. Although they gave no reason, many experts suspected that the lack of any circuit split at that time was at least one reason for their refusal. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said as much in public comments.

But the Sixth Circuit decision now directly conflicts with federal appeals courts in the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits.

“Now there is a split, and it is a stark one,” SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston wrote :

In one sweeping decision, the Sixth Circuit has given all of the states in its geographic region a victory for their bans on both initial marriages of same-sex couples and official recognition of such marriages performed outside of the couples’ home states.  By contrast, other federal courts have nullified identical bans in thirteen states just over the past few months, with the prospect that the number would soon rise to sixteen — for a total of thirty-five states, plus Washington, D.C., allowing such marriages.

A number of options now exist for parties to get a marriage case before the high court, Denniston explained later —  including asking for a direct review of the Sixth Circuit case, a review of an appeals court decision that has not yet gone to the Supreme Court (the Ninth Circuit, for example), or a review of a case pending in an appeals court.

The first option — review of the Sixth Circuit case — is the best and most likely, Denniston said, for these reasons:

Among those three options, Option 1 might have the most promise of gaining Supreme Court review because the Sixth Circuit’s decision is the one that broke the pattern, because it involves an array of cases from four states, raising the constitutionality of bans on both new same-sex marriages and the official state recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, because it was written by a highly respected court of appeals judge (Jeffrey S. Sutton), because it brought a stirring dissent by another well-regarded jurist (Senior Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey), and because the opinions swept across all of the issues that have been raised in case after case — even the rather obscure question whether a refusal to recognize an out-of-state same-sex marriage violates the constitutional right to travel, and the emotional question of whether a death certificate for a same-sex spouse who has now died should show that there was a surviving spouse.

And indeed lawyers in that case  have already indicated that they will move quickly, with the hope they’ll get the nod on review and then get the case on the calendar in time for argument and an opinion before the term ends in June.