Back in July, I had reported on Halbig v. Burwell — a case at the DC Circuit Court that challenged the use of Obamacare’s subsidies outside of State-based healthcare exchanges.
Now, the Supreme Court has decided they’re going to take on the case.
At the end of the day, if the Supremes decide that only State-based exchanges can legally offer federal subsidies, that would deal a huge blow against those who bought their insurance directly from the feds:
Since the health care exchanges have been in operation, nearly five million individuals have received federal subsidies to help them afford health insurance on an exchange run by the federal government. The average subsidy has been about $4,700 per person. The fate of those subsidies apparently will now depend upon how the Court interprets four words in the Affordable Care Act. In setting up the subsidy scheme, Congress said it would apply to exchanges “established by the State.”
What’s more, States such as my own — Georgia — currently have law that prohibits running an exchange, making any further implementations almost certainly requiring further acts of Congress.
Then, last Thursday, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned lower court cases in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee allowing bans on same-sex marriage as well as the non-recognition of such marriages being performed in other States.
SCOTUSBlog presents a compelling listing of the main points that this Appeals Court found:
The Sixth Circuit’s majority opinion reached its result through these specific steps:
* It ruled that the Supreme Court’s one-line decision in the 1972 case of Baker v. Nelson, saying that a challenge to a state ban on same-sex marriage did not raise “a substantial federal question,” is a still intact precedent, and it binds the lower courts.
* It found that the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, striking down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, did not disturb that 1972 precedent.
* It relied upon the Supreme Court’s comment in the Windsor decision that the Court was not providing an answer to the basic question of state authority to impose bans on same-sex marriages. It also interpreted that decision as being primarily about federalism, and the need to respect the prerogatives of the states to define marriage.
* It commented that the Justices’ October 6 refusal to grant review of any of the same-sex marriage appeals before it then does not end the debate over state authority in this field.
* It rejected the reasoning of all of the other federal court rulings striking down state bans, and it said that they involve a wide array of reasoning. And it rejected the theories of the challengers in bringing those cases, saying that “not one” of those “makes the case for constitutionalizing the definition of marriage and for removing the issue from the place it has been since the founding: in the hands of state voters.”
* It said it was guided by the history of state power to define marriage, which it said was an unbroken definition that this was open to opposite-sex couples, from the founding of the nation right up to 2003, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down that state’s ban.
* It declared that the state bans were to be evaluated using the “rational basis” test — the most lenient of the constitutional standards for judging claims of discrimination. It conceded that this test set a “low bar.” And it concluded that state bans have at least two rational foundations: first, the regulation of sex between men and women, with the promotion of marriage between them as a way to establish stable family relationships; and, second, a state’s desire to wait and see before changing the norm of opposite-sex marriage.
* It found that none of the bans adopted by voter-approved ballot measures in the four states involved in the cases had been enacted out of hostility (“animus”) toward gays and lesbians, but rather sought only to codify long-standing social norms about marriage, already reflected in state laws. It also commented that it was difficult to assess the motives of the 8.6 million people in the four states who voted for those measures.
* It concluded that what the same-sex couples were seeking was a fundamental right to “gay marriage,” and that does not exist under the Constitution. The route of recognizing gay marriage through the Constitution, it said, “does not exist.” It thus rejected the argument of advocates of same-sex marriage that they were seeking only an equal right to enter an institution open to others. Even the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia, for the first time allowing couples of different races to marry, did not provide a new definition of traditional marriage, it said.
* It ruled that bans on same-sex marriage would not violate the constitutional ban on discrimination based on gender. Gays and lesbians, it said, have not been recognized by the Supreme Court as a discrete class deserving of special constitutional protection as historic targets of discrimination.
* It concluded that it was up to the nation’s people, not to its courts, to decide when “the time is right to recognize” a new and more expansive interpretation of rights under the Constitution. “The federal courts,” it said, “have no long-lasting capacity to change what people think and believe about new social questions.” Victories by gay rights advocates through initiatives and legislation, it remarked, would lead to “greater acceptance” of those goals.
* Finally, turning to the question of state authority to refuse to officially recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, it found that “states have always decided for themselves when to yield to laws of other states.”
TheDailySignal.com presents further arguments from the case via their post entitled, “Court Rules No Constitutional Right to Same-Sex Marriage.”