Supreme Court talks social issues, voting
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
The Supreme Court justices started their new term last week and plan to hear cases concerning affirmative action in higher education, same-sex marriage and the Voting Rights Act.
Senior political science major Jack Neff said he thinks this year’s cases are more interesting compared to what the Supreme Court has heard in the past few years. He said he thinks the decisions the justices make will directly affect young adults.
“I would say that a lot of the cases this term reflect major issues that our generation sees differently than the previous generation,” Neff said.
Neff said he looks forward to hearing how the court rules on the affirmative action case. He said because he applied to law school, the affirmative action ruling could potentially impact his application process.
Political science professor James Magee, an expert on constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court, said he thinks the issue of affirmative action is very divisive. The case of Fisher v. University of Texas, where a white student accused the school of reverse discrimination after she wasn’t accepted, will be heard by the Supreme Court on Oct. 12.
The University of Texas automatically accepts a student if he or she is in the top 10 percent of a high school’s graduating class, Magee said. The school considers race a factor when Texan applicants are not in that percentile. He said this is the first case against the University of Texas regarding affirmative action since 2003.
“It’s a very complicated and controversial subject,” Magee said.
Magee said the court will also hear two same-sex marriage cases from California and Massachusetts.
Sophomore Matt Roarty said he thinks Americans will be most interested in the same-sex marriage cases because the other two cases are not as relevant to this generation.
“I think same-sex marriage and the expansion of federal benefits is the case people are most concerned about,” Roarty said. “There is just not widespread support for affirmative action as there once was.”
American history professor Anne Boylan said although the three cases probably will not be resolved until the spring, she does not think the court will spend a lot of time deliberating on the Voting Rights Act case. She said she thinks the court will be interrupting a law that Congress has already reauthorized. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to eliminate various mechanisms, such as literacy tests, that southern states used to prevent African Americans from voting, Boylan said.
“It was designed to protect people’s right to vote, and it provided for federal oversight of states that had a long history and pattern of discriminating African American voters,” Boylan said. “So they were under special scrutiny in those states.”
She said Congress reauthorized, or extended, the act, but some southern states want to have the special scrutiny lifted.
Roarty said unlike the health care case last year, he does not think the Supreme Court’s three cases will play a role in the upcoming election because they will be decided after the vote. He said voting rights and affirmative action are not as relevant as they once were, but he thinks equal rights for same-sex couples may be a concern for voters.
“I don’t see them making a soon decision on same-sex marriage,” he said. “I guess the closest would be just gay rights issues in general. Romney and Obama haven’t campaigned on that so much.”