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God, Country, Notre Dame: SCOTUS Edition

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Notre Dame chapter.

Notre Dame students are smart—no doubt about that—but there’s a difference between being intelligent and being informed. You may excel in the classroom, but education needs worldly context beyond your ND bubble. This weekly column exists to keep you up to date with the latest happenings around the nation in 500 words or less. We do the research, you do the reading. HCNDXO

6 June Supreme Court Decisions Everyone Should Know:

1. Execution Methods (Glossip v. Gross)

Background: Three inmates on death row challenged that the sedative midazolam, a drug administered to make inmates unconscious before they are executed, inflicts unconstitutional pain (Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment). It has been unreliable in the past to produce a deep unconsciousness and this has led to many botched executions. 

Ruling: 5-4, the use of midazolam will remain in place

Why You Should Care: This case opened up debate about the practice of the death penalty itself.  Most likely, the court will examine death row itself soon.

2. Power Plant Emissions (Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA et. Al.)

Background: The Environmental Protection Agency, one of Obama administration’s biggest environmental initiatives, was created with the goal of reducing coal-fired power plants’ toxic pollutants, mainly mercury.  The premise sounds good on paper, but the program was projected to cost $9.6 billion, but only produce $6 million in health benefits from its works. You do the math.

Ruling: 5-4, the EPA violates the Clean Air Act by not taking into account the cost-benefits analysis of this program

Why You Should Care: The above-mentioned $9.6 billion costs comes from taxpayer money. You’re paying for something that has been a haphazardly managed project

3. The Affordable Care Act (King v. Burwell)

Background: For a concise history of the Affordable Care Act, check out this SCOTUS blog. The ACA set up two ways to buy healthcare insurance—through a state exchange or through a federal exchange. Here’s where the problem arises: the subsidies offered to lower and middle income people to reduce the costs of this insurance are claimed to be “established by the state,” four little words that have caused so much debate. If SCOTUS ruled that subsidies that are only literally “established by the state” qualify, the federal subsidies would be ineffective and millions of people would have lost coverage.

Ruling: 6-3, allowing subsidies to continue to help lower and middle income groups afford health care insurance.

Why you should care: Chances are, whether you are aware of this or not, you know someone who would have potentially lost their healthcare coverage if the court had ruled against the subsidies. Healthcare may be something you have the liberality to take for granted, but to the 6.4 million people who would have lost subsidies that enabled them to afford this coverage, this ruling was far from trivial.

4. Housing Discrimination (Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project)

Background: A Texas group that helps mostly black low-income families find housing in Dallas’s largely white suburbs. The families are allowed to use housing vouchers, but landlords, many of which receive low-income tax credits and therefore, are required to accept these vouchers, have refused them, bringing about this housing discrimination case.  

Ruling: 5-4, in favor that there is enough evidence to prove discrimination

Why You Should Care:  In light of what’s growing to be a disheartening list—Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston—this is another reminder that we are far from racial equality. What’s making national headlines are police brutality and mass shooting cases, but racial discrimination also occurs in a smaller, more civil scale—even as little as moving into a neighborhood.

5. Same Sex Marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges)

Background: The majority of the states already recognized same sex marriage, but the biggest problem was same-sex spouses moving to states that didn’t recognize their marriage. This called for a federal, not a state decision, on the ruling of same sex marriage.

Ruling: 5-4, same sex couples are granted the right to marriage

Why You Should Care: There has already been substantial backlash from religious communities and certain county clerks that refuse to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses claiming it’s a violation of their personal beliefs. Even though the battle is won on this case, there is still a war of discrimination left for this community. Expect to see the next possible step from the LGBT movement in employment non-discrimination laws.

6. Confederate Flag and Free Speech (Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans)

Background: The biggest argument for this case was the fact that although individuals have the freedom of speech, their specialty car license plates can unintentionally display that the state that licensed that plate thereby endorses the content on the plate.

Ruling: 5-4, ruling that Texas is allowed to reject specialty license plates that contain an image of the Confederate battle flag.

Why You Should Care: The same logic used to defend Texas’s right to reject these license plates can be applied Bree Newsome, the girl who climbed the South Carolina statehouse’s flagpole to take down the Confederate flag, and now faces potentially 3 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. As the Confederate flag controversies continue to make headlines, this SCOTUS decision is a good one to keep in the back of your mind when judging these news hits.


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Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Sources: 1, 2


(cue typical college student intro) Natalie is a freshman from Notre Dame studying business and journalism.  She is originally from Kansas City, Kansas, aka the land of Oz.  She willingly admits that her inner monologue is narrated by the voice of Kristen Bell, or more commonly recognized as the voice of Gossip Girl (xoxo).  In her spare time in which she is not trying to find a semi-comfortable place to crash for a power nap, she loves to read anything and everything, craft and has the dorm decorations to prove it, plan out her outfits a week in advanced, make coffee runs at any time of day, and last, but never least, hang out with her friends.  She is so lucky to have found a family at Her Campus and finally, Love Thee, HCND!