Momentous Supreme Court cases create policy, undermine Constitution

By Marlo Safi / Columnist

The Supreme Court saved the best for last.

The highest court in the land ruled two of the most controversial and momentous cases of its term within the last week. King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges — colloquially referred to as the Obamacare case and the gay marriage case, respectively — were both feats for the left.

The past week, however, was not so triumphant for conservatives — but it’s not because conservatives are bigoted homophobes who think Obamacare is the worst thing since Al Gore.

Conservatives have been fervently rallying for a latent issue often overlooked by the American general public — constitutionality.

The Court heard King v. Burwell to decide whether the distribution of taxpayer subsidies to Americans purchasing insurance on the federal exchange was constitutional under the roughly thousand-page law conjured by Congress. David King — the plaintiff — centered his grievances on the simple language Congress used. Specifically, King was concerned with the phrase “established by the state.” Justice Antonin Scalia, along with two other justices, interpreted the clause to mean that subsidies should only be distributed to those purchasing health care on their state’s exchange.

Six other justices interpreted “established by the state” quite differently, though.

On June 25, the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling preserved these subsidies for the 6.4 million who depend on them. This sounds like quite the achievement — after all, millions who couldn’t afford health care without the subsidies can continue receiving them. How could anyone be bitter about that?

That’s not what conservatives have had their panties in a bunch about, though.

The more popular case, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage in the U.S. the day after the King v. Burwell ruling, collected a nationwide uproar of approval from gay-marriage proponents. However, Obergefell v. Hodges also received a great deal of grief from conservatives for the same reason King v. Burwell did. Conservatives are mortified by what these two cases could precede — the Supreme Court’s increasing power, which has thrown our precious balance of powers off-kilter.

So, why have our founding fathers rolled over in their graves? The rule of law, specifically the separation of powers the framers employed and intended to last for posterity, has been grossly undermined in both cases. “Words no longer have meaning if an exchange that is not established by a state is ‘established by the State,’” said Scalia in his King v. Burwell dissent.

Scalia goes on to elaborate why “it means just what [the court chooses] it to mean” when interpreting legal language. The court essentially rewrote the Obamacare law, and this execution of power is a bad omen — it could be foreshadowing a Supreme Court more powerful than ever before in American history, setting a dangerous precedent.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, a common theme looms — overstepping the Supreme Court. Scalia, specifically, has had enough of it.

Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court,” said Scalia in yet another scathing dissent.

He goes on to add that the decision “robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

Obergefell v. Hodges was a devastating blow to small government advocates who had to witness the court rob the states of their right to decide whether to legalize gay marriage.

Those who identify as Affordable Care Act (ACA) and gay marriage proponents may argue that this breed of progress should trump what a bunch of dead guys had ideally envisioned for this country. This is where conservatives urge our generation to take a step back, to use these two decisions as a wakeup call.

In short, cultural shifts are not an excuse for the Supreme Court to create new fundamental rights. There is no legitimate government interest in preventing polygamy or marriage between family members under the equal rationale used by the Supreme Court. So, there is no reason to butt into same-sex marriage, either.

Conservatives everywhere are not chastising the court about the prospect of gays being able to marry or subsidies being distributed to those who can’t afford health care. Conservatives fear that the Court’s repeated creation of policy — an ability not reserved for the Supreme Court — is crossing into the jurisdiction of our legislative branch.

The decisions made in King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges were a travesty to the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall — the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court. It is imperative that Americans call their attention to the court’s threat to American democracy.

Our meticulously crafted system of government is being threatened on a daily basis, and for the sake of the preservation of American ideals, we must remain vigilant. This theft of self-government committed by the Court has maimed American democracy, and in the process, the court has beclowned itself.

Marlo Safi primarily writes about politics and public policy for The Pitt News.

Write to Marlo at [email protected]