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Supreme Court Makes Big Decisions

June 29, 2015
Plain English Version
Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Seated left to right: Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts,Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing left to right:Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.,Justice Elena Kagan.

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Seated left to right: Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts,Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing left to right:Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.,Justice Elena Kagan.

The U.S. Supreme Court is at the top of one of the three branches of government. The other two branches are the Executive (President) and the Legislative (Congress). The job of the Supreme Court is to say how the U.S. Constitution applies to new ideas and events.

Marriage Equality

Last week the Supreme Court made big news about marriage. It said that marriage is not limited to a man and a woman. All fifty states must now allow same-sex marriages.

There were two issues here. Until last week, the states made their own rules about marriage, such as the age at which people could marry without the consent of parents.

Five years ago marriage could only take place between a man and woman. Some people of the same sex wanted to marry each other. Many people thought such marriages were okay. Many others did not like the idea. It was up to each state to decide for itself. That view is called “states’ rights.”

The second issue has to with what is called “equal protection.” Men and women are equal. There cannot be one law for men and another for women. Therefore, a man can marry a man, and a woman can marry a woman.

In one sense, it was states’ rights versus equal protection. Equal protection won. Same-sex marriage now is the law of the land.

Affordable Care Act

A second Supreme Court ruling was about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The law read that lower-income families could only get subsidies in states that sold health insurance through “exchanges.” Many states did not open exchanges. Therefore,

people in those states had to buy from the federal exchange.

The issue was what did the language actually say (wording) versus what was the “intent” of Congress. Intent won. Subsidies are now the law of the land.

Conservatives lined up against same-sex marriage. They lined up against the subsidies in states that did not run their own exchanges. They lost on both issues.

The work of the Supreme Court is done. The politics will go on. Conservatives and liberals agree on the famous saying, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

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