STAFF NOTE: We missed posting these comments last week.
The Supreme Court handed down several decisions Monday.
The biggest decision was a punt: the SCOTUS declined to rule on the religious freedom case of Arlene’s Florists. Owner Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington State grandmother, has been relentlessly pursued and punished by the state for declining a job creating floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding due to her Christian religious beliefs. The SCOTUS lifted the lower court ruling against her and sent her case back to Washington to be retried in light of their recent incredibly narrow ruling in favor of the Colorado baker.
While this is something of a victory for religious rights, it’s still not the definitive ruling reinforcing the supremacy of the very first clause of the First Amendment that is needed. In creating a right to same-sex marriage, the Court also created a huge mess of conflicting rights claims that partisan activists are using to try to deny Christians their enumerated right not to be coerced by the government into violating their religious principles. The Court now seems intent on letting their own mess fester, clog courts and ruin people’s lives and livelihoods for years while they dodge the only responsibility they have, which is to protect citizens from unconstitutional laws and court rulings. I fail to see how ruling so narrowly that a decision applies only to one case, then sending back another case to be retried in light of the decision that applies only to the first case clears up the confusion.
Hey, Supremes: I know you’re the ones with the black robes and gavels, but consider this: Protecting religious freedom was listed as the very FIRST right for a reason.
A couple of other decisions will have ramifications on the upcoming election. In a sharply divided 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS overturned a three-judge federal panel that declared the voting district map drawn by Texas' GOP legislature to be racially discriminatory gerrymandering. The majority found that since the panel allowed interim voting using the lines that had mostly been developed by the Texas court, the legislature had a good faith reason to believe the lines were legally sound. Over the furious objections of the Court’s liberals, the majority found that only one district was an "impermissible racial gerrymander."
The Court also declined to hear a challenge to North Carolina’s GOP-drawn districts and sent it back to a lower court for more work. Details are at the link. With last week’s ruling that challengers to Wisconsin’s GOP-drawn districts didn’t have standing to bring suit, this marks three losses (or at least setbacks) in a row for the left on redistricting disputes.
I think Republicans might have more sympathy for Democrats’ complaints about gerrymandering if they hadn’t exploited it to the hilt when they were in power. I’m reminded of a friend of mine from Texas who used to complain that his entire town was conservative but they had one of the most liberal Representatives in the House because their voting district map looked like the chalk outline police would draw around a dead centipede. Incidentally, that district is now a rough rectangle shape that exactly follows the borders of two adjacent counties. And it now has a Republican Representative.