Next Week: Supreme Court to Issue 10 Significant Opinions

**Affirmative Action: Supreme Court Weighs In**

The Supreme Court is gearing up to make decisions on some of its most significant cases of the term. With 10 opinions left to release before their summer break, the court will address contentious issues such as affirmative action, student loans, and gay rights.

*Affirmative action* has been a topic of debate for years, and the survival of this practice in higher education is being reconsidered by the court. Harvard and the University of North Carolina are at the center of two related cases. Despite the Supreme Court’s previous approval of affirmative action in higher education, the justices’ decision to hear the cases indicates a potential reassessment. During the arguments in October, all six conservative justices expressed doubts about the practice, suggesting a shifting perspective.

The Biden administration has emphasized the destabilizing effect that eliminating race-conscious college admissions would have. The administration argues that this change would disproportionately impact Black and Latino students, causing a decline in their enrollment at highly selective schools.

**Student Loans: Fate Hanging in the Balance**

The justices will also determine the fate of President Joe Biden’s plan to *wipe away or reduce student loans held by millions of Americans*. Although the plan seemed unlikely to survive based on the initial arguments in February, it remains possible that the court could rule that the challengers lacked the right to sue, allowing the plan to proceed.

Under President Biden’s proposal, $10,000 in federal student loan debt would be erased for borrowers with incomes below $125,000 or households earning less than $250,000. The plan also includes an additional $10,000 cancellation for those who received federal Pell Grants to attend college. Advocates estimate that millions of borrowers would benefit from this program. However, regardless of the court’s decision, loan payments that have been on hold since the start of the pandemic will resume this summer.

**Clash of Gay Rights and Religious Rights**

A case that combines *gay rights and religious rights* is still to be decided by the Supreme Court. The case involves a Christian graphic artist from Colorado who objects to designing wedding websites for same-sex couples due to her religious beliefs.

State law requires businesses open to the public to provide services to all customers, but the designer, Lorie Smith, argues that this requirement violates her freedom of speech. Smith believes that a ruling against her would infringe on the rights of artists, forcing them to create work that goes against their beliefs. Opponents of Smith’s position argue that her victory could enable a wide range of businesses to discriminate against various groups, including Black, Jewish, or Muslim customers, interracial or interfaith couples, and immigrants. During the case’s arguments in December, the court’s conservative majority demonstrated sympathy towards Smith’s arguments, and in recent years, religious plaintiffs have achieved several victories at the Supreme Court.

**Protecting Religious Rights**

Another case that could result in a victory for *religious rights* involves a Christian mail carrier who refused to work on Sundays when required to deliver Amazon packages.

The Supreme Court will examine when businesses must accommodate religious employees. Unusually, both sides in this case agree on several points: businesses like the Postal Service cannot use minor costs or hardships as reasons to reject requests for religious accommodation. This suggests the possibility of a ruling that is supported by both liberal and conservative justices. However, it remains unclear how the court will decide the particular worker’s case.

**Voting Rights: The Power of State Legislatures**

The Supreme Court has not yet announced its decision in a case regarding the *power of state legislatures to create rules for elections*. Specifically, the case questions whether state legislatures should be free from checks imposed by state courts when drawing congressional and presidential districts.

In a North Carolina case, the justices were asked to eliminate the power of state courts to strike down congressional districts on the grounds that they violate state constitutions. However, a twist occurred when North Carolina’s state Supreme Court disposed of the ruling under review after Republicans gained control of the court. This development could lead the Supreme Court to dismiss the case without reaching a decision. Nevertheless, the court might still consider a similar case from Ohio and render a decision after the 2024 elections.

Overall, these pending decisions represent significant legal debates in areas such as affirmative action, student loans, gay rights, and voting rights. The Supreme Court’s rulings will shape future policy and have a far-reaching impact on various aspects of American society.

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