Civics DeckNewsletter Highlights

by Linda Bennett

Win for Democracy

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected North Carolina Republican legislators’ argument that the state courts cannot review laws legislatures pass governing federal elections. In a 6-3 opinion, the nation’s high court rejected Republicans’ argument, known as the independent state legislature theory. Some surprises and some not. While Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion, Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Sam Alito dissented.

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that state courts and state constitutions should serve as a critical check against abuses of power by legislators, Bob Phillips, Common Cause North Carolina executive director, said.  “Now, we must ensure our state courts fulfill their duty to protect our freedoms against attacks by extremist politicians.” (-Michigan Advance)


Losses for Democracy

Can Colleges Be Racially Diverse Without Affirmative Action? Experience Suggests Not. The Supreme Court says American colleges can no longer consider race in their admissions decisions. Instead, they can try to build racially diverse campuses through less-direct means. Experience suggests that is going to be a hard slog.

Nine states, including California, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas, Florida and New Hampshire, have already banned race-conscious admissions, mainly as a result of voter initiatives. The University of Michigan says it has struggled to maintain adequate diversity since voters banned preferential treatment based on race, sex and other factors in 2006, despite a number of initiatives targeting new groups of prospective students and increasing financial aid to help low-income students in particular.

More substantial diversity on a campus exposes students to new ideas and can help dispel stereotypes, proponents say. Michigan administrators said in a 2022 Supreme Court filing that the low numbers of minority students leave some feeling isolated and burdened with being the sole representatives of their race in particular classes. That in turn can discourage others from considering the school, they said, leading to further underrepresentation. (-WSJ- Paywall)


A Blow to LGBTQ Civil Rights: Neil Gorsuch has a problem with telling the truth in 303 Creative v. Elenis

The complaint at the center of 303 Creative v. Elenis rests on a hypothetical situation. The case, taken up by the Supreme Court this term, culminated in a decision that the state of Colorado cannot force a Christian web designer to create websites for same-sex weddings.

In his analysis in Vox, Ian Millhiser wrote, “Gorsuch hands a victory to the Christian right by making false claims about an important First Amendment case.“ This case should have never made it this far.” The frustrating thing about this case is that it involves an entirely fabricated legal dispute. Again, Lorie Smith has never actually made a wedding website for a paying customer. Nor has Colorado ever attempted to enforce its civil rights law against Ms. Smith. Indeed, in its brief to the Supreme Court, Colorado expressed doubt that its anti-discrimination law would even apply to Smith.

Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent: “Today is a sad day in American constitutional law and in the lives of LGBT people. The Supreme Court of the United States declares that a particular kind of business, though open to the public, has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class. The Court does so for the first time in its history. By issuing this new license to discriminate in a case brought by a company that seeks to deny same-sex couples the full and equal enjoyment of its services, the immediate, symbolic effect of the decision is to mark gays and lesbians for second-class status. In this way, the decision itself inflicts a kind of stigmatic harm, on top of any harm caused by denials of service. The opinion of the Court is, quite literally, a notice that reads: “Some services may be denied to same-sex couples.”


Student Loan Forgiveness Decision Devastates 43M Borrowers

Friday’s 6-3 ruling impacts some 43 million borrowers nationally, including 20 million people who would have had their loan debt fully erased under the Biden plan. In Michigan, the decision has ramifications for more than 800,000 borrowers. Roughly 864,000 people in Michigan applied or were automatically deemed eligible for relief before the administration was required to stop accepting applications, the White House said in January. And 566,000 fully-approved applications in Michigan had been sent to loan servicers for discharge at the time.

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