TheUpshot in the New York Times Tuesday highlighted an apparent tilt leftward in the Supreme Court’s recent decisions. The authors cautioned, however, that soon-to-come blockbuster decisions might alter any perception of a liberal trend. Well, the blockbuster decisions came – two yesterday and one today. Given that all three left progressives happy, conservatives distraught, and both groups scratching their heads, we can conclude that the perceived liberal shift is real.
Thursday’s 6-3 King v. Burwell decision, upholding subsidies for those who purchase healthcare insurance on the federal, as opposed to their home state, exchange is probably the most far-reaching. Millions of Americans will not face crippling hikes in their out-of-pocket insurance expenses.
But, maybe today’s 5-4 marriage equality decision is the most critical. Gay Americans now can sleep assured that they have a Constitutional right to marry their partner of choice in every state of the nation. We’ve come an awful long way in a short time.
Still, the court’s 5-4 decision upholding the Justice Department’s interpretation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) should not be disregarded. In brief, the Court concluded that the FHA prohibits states and local governments from enacting housing laws that disproportionately harm minorities either by 1) increasing segregation, 2) steering section 8 recipients into predominantly minority communities, or 3) reducing available housing for people of color.
To prevail under the FHA, the Court held, plaintiffs do not need to prove discriminatory intent. They can win by showing disparate impact so long as the defendant does not prove the challenged statute serves a legitimate purpose.
The last few weeks have been decidedly mixed. We as a nation grieve for the slain “Emanuel Nine”. American labor absorbed a body blow when Congress granted the President Trade Promotion Authority thereby almost guaranteeing passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Yet in the wake of the terrible crime in Charleston, black and white southerners have united to mourn the senseless loss of nine black lives and in opposition to a still potent symbol of racism – the Confederate battle flag. Over the past two days, the Supreme Court has struck blows for social justice (marriage equality), economic justice, (affordable healthcare), and integrated communities.
The arc of justice is unquestionably long. Recent events demonstrate that while it may not always bend towards justice, it does not necessarily shy away from it either.