Winning legally but losing politically and vice versa

By the end of June, there will be two rulings by the US Supreme Court that will have wide-ranging consequences. One involves Obamacare and deals with whether the subsidies provided by the exchanges set up by the federal government in those states that chose not to set up their own is constitutional. The other deals with same-sex marriage and involves two issues: whether states can ban same-sex marriages and whether they can refuse to recognize those conducted in other states.
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How the same-sex marriage verdict might turn out

Next month will bring the verdict by the US Supreme Court on the same-sex marriage case. Here is my entirely speculative narrative of what I think will happen, based on the hearings and my perceptions of the justices’ views. The fact that the US Supreme Court did not take up any of the challenges to same-sex marriage cases as long as US Appeals Courts across the country upheld them suggests to me that the Supreme Court was deeply split on what to do about this issue.
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Abortion, the death penalty, and the Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court ruled back in 1973 in Roe v. Wade that abortion is legal within certain limits and set in motion a prolonged campaign by opponents to overturn that ruling. What opponents have tried to do is rather than overturn that decision directly, to adopt a policy of trying to make it harder and harder for women to get one. This has taken the form of adding restrictions that make it difficult for clinics to operate, thus forcing many to shut down and forcing women to travel to distant locations.
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How will the Supreme Court rule on same-sex marriage?

Trying to predict how the US Supreme Court will rule on the highly contentious issue of same-sex marriage is a mug’s game but I will indulge in it anyway. The court will be deciding two questions:

  1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
  2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

What follows are my speculations on how all this will eventually play out based on the hearings and the past opinions and statements of the justices. The hearings can be tricky to evaluate because often the justices may seem to be pushing a point of view when what they are really doing is not advocating for that view but seeing what are the best reasons for it.
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Reflections on the oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case

I listened to the full 140-minute audio of the oral arguments in Tuesday’s hearings on same-sex marriage before the US Supreme Court. While listening, my reaction was somewhat different from the commentators I had linked to earlier so I thought I would put forward my own impressions of the exchanges and the tactics employed by the lawyers for the various sides. I will give my predictions for the outcome in a later post, maybe later today but more likely tomorrow.
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Same-sex marriage case oral arguments now available

The audio of this morning’s oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodgeson before the US Supreme Court is now available. The first part dealing with the issue of whether states can ban same-sex marriages (what is known as the “marriage question”) lasts for 90 minutes and can be heard here while the second part dealing with whether states can refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally married in another state (the “recognition question”) lasts 60 minutes and can be heard here. (Warning: autoplay).
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A good primer on Tuesday’s same-sex marriage hearing

Tomorrow the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the issue of same-sex marriage. Of course, what the court usually looks are not broad questions but more narrowly focused ones that can have broad implications, and understanding what those questions are enables us to better understand the oral arguments. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog is my go-to person for explaining the background to cases and he has written about the questions that will be at play.
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Is a sentence of life imprisonment without parole humane?

I hate the death penalty for many reasons that I won’t bother to go into here. But the recent results of an investigation about how over many decades the FBI faked forensic evidence to aid the prosecution in criminal cases should settle the case against it once and for all since it throws serious doubt on our ability to reach the level of certainty about guilt that a death penalty requires. (Thanks to Marcus Ranum for the link.)
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What could explain the difference in the severity of punishment?

Recently some teachers and administrators in the Atlanta school district were harshly punished (caution: autoplay) for changing the results of their students’ answers on the high-stakes tests that are the bane of the US educational system. They did this in order to improve the district’s scores because poor performance could result in pretty drastic consequences for them and their schools.
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The consequences of the Greece v. Galloway prayer case

The US Supreme Court, in a very confused ruling, decided in the case Greece v Galloway that ceremonial opening prayers were acceptable at the beginning of government sessions provided the prayers were not sectarian in their delivery or in the selection of prayer givers. Even some of the so-called liberal members of the court like Elena Kagan, while dissenting from the verdict approving the Greece prayers, said that “such a forum need not become a religion-free zone.”
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