SCOTUS: Why You Should Pay Attention

So, I don't know if you paid any attention to the tweets going on a little while back that where hashtagged #SCOTUS, but you definitely should have. I wanted to write a post on its importance, but I figured, why not let someone who is actually in DC and studying Political Science to do the explaining. My friend and classmate, Hilary from Purple Flowers kindly agreed to write up a post about the event and tell you a little about how she got involved in politics.
This past semester I took Constitutional Law and officially caught the 'law bug.'  I was doing briefs for fun and researching joint JD + MPA programs… It got excessive.  However, after the term papers were handed in and the debates finished, I realized that only a small percentage of practiced law actually dealt with any Constitutional standing, and law school was not going to pay for itself.  So. Back to square one.  BUT regardless of your experience with Law or your knowledge, it doesn't take either to know that the past couple weeks were big for the Supreme Court, or what us nerds like to refer to it as, SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States). One of the best resources to follow is the SCOTUS blog whenever there is a ruling scheduled.  You get answers and explanations straight from the source and you can submit questions which they will answer in a live chat.  

Now back to the juicy stuff - so what mattered these past few weeks?!  I'm going to touch on two hearings that I thought were extremely important socially, for American culture especially. Sometimes, the public likes to refer to the Court as giving the 'bad' news first, then the good news. However, I think that statement depends whole heartedly on what side of the aisle you see yourself on.  

The first real earth shattering piece of news that came out of this session was Shelby County v. Holder, the ruling stating that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional.  Here is a brief history of the Voting Rights Act from the Department of Justice. When this was passed, specific states of the union were deemed as historically aggressive in deterring minorities from voting through their own state election laws.  In Section 4 of this bill, it required specific states to have their state election law approved by Congress.  Since 1982 to 2006, over 700 election law provisions have been blocked by Congress because they were discriminatory (Amanda Terkel quoting Ginsburg on Twitter).  This was ruled unconstitutional since it was not 'equal' which I get.  It did pinpoint specific states (all generally belonging to the "Old South" culture).  However, enacting laws that discourage minority citizens (sometimes called: people) from voting I don't get.  However, there are two sides to every story and this case definitely has stirred up some great academic chatter among sociologists about how Americans view race.   

United States v. Windsor struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); this essentially meant that the federal government did not recognize same-sex marriages, regardless of state law.  I think the easiest way to understand this ruling is to remember that in the United States, there is dual citizenship (2 types): you are a federal citizen of the United States of America, and you are a citizen of the state of ____.  DOMA restricted the federal government from providing benefits, social security, filing taxes together, etc. to same-sex married couples regardless if they were recognized by their state as legally married. This was ruled as unconstitutional, and now they will be recognized.  A huge step for the human rights campaign and for people everywhere; love is love.

Hollingsworth v. Perry ruled on Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, and SCOTUS found they had no standing in court.  My law professor referred to this as 'having no skin in the game.'  Essentially what this meant was that they had no standing presenting the case to the Supreme Court and therefore same-sex marriage was re-legalized in California.  If SCOTUS had chosen to give a ruling on that case, they would have had to determine if same-sex marriage was constitutional, and being a somewhat conservative court, that was definitely something they did not want to do.  Two big wins for love from the Supreme Court.  

There have been jokes saying this year will be the happiest Tax Day ever now that same-sex couples can file their taxes together, and I think that's pretty cute. This ruling definitely made me see this issue as a human rights issue.  When we think about our basic abilities and rights as American citizens, they are truly unlike anywhere else in the world. Also, looking for a good laugh? Daily Show on DOMA.

Last but not least, the running of the interns. Buzzfeed came out with a great article [shocker] on how the rest of the world sees the rulings of the SP: young, unpaid twenty somethings dressed in business clothes racing in tennis shoes. Last summer I was lucky enough to stand on the steps when they announced their ruling on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  It was a seriously cool experience and I still feel like I was a part of history that day.  

In addition to the loads of academic material that has already been published about these cases, there was fantastic media coverage of SCOTUS.  If you don't have tweetdeck yet and you're into twitter, it's a must!  I feel so much more up to date will all things current events.  

I'd love to hear your take on the past few weeks of activity in the Supreme Court?  

Thanks for reading along and follow Purple Flowers!  

Hilary xx

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