Last Week’s Supreme Court Decisions: What You Need to Know
California v. Texas
The plaintiffs in this case, a group of Republican state officials, argued that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was unconstitutional, and as a result, the entire ACA had to be struck down. The individual mandate of the ACA required Americans to pay a tax penalty if they did not have health insurance. However, in 2017 the tax penalty imposed by the individual mandate was set to $0. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled to dismiss this case, noting that the plaintiffs did not have the legal standing to bring the case because they did not experience any harm from the individual mandate because the penalty was zeroed out. This is the third time that the Supreme Court has upheld the ACA in legal challenges seeking to strike the law down. The ACA has been critical for expanding access to healthcare, with 31 million Americans accessing health insurance coverage because of the law. Over 1 million Americans have enrolled in new health insurance policies since mid-February this year when the Biden Administration opened a special enrollment period to expand coverage to uninsured Americans amidst the pandemic.
Fulton v. City of Philadelphia
In this case, Catholic Social Services (CSS), a taxpayer-funded foster care agency, sued the city of Philadelphia after the city ended a contract with CSS for refusing to work with same-sex couples due to religious beliefs. CSS argued that the Constitution prohibits governments from enforcing nondiscrimination regulations against organizations with religious objections. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of CSS in this case. However, it is important to emphasize that the ruling is very narrow and focused on the specific details of contract that Philadelphia issued. The Supreme Court did not establish a general right for religious organizations to violate nondiscrimination policies. Governments can continue to enforce LGBTQ nondiscrimination provisions on religious organizations as long as they are enforced consistently. While this ruling does not establish a broad license to discriminate, it also doesn’t end the countless ways that LGBTQ Americans still face discrimination in everyday life. This case underscores the need to pass the Equality Act to provide comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people all across the country.