Courts Health LGBTQ

Supreme Court Rules to Uphold Affordable Care Act, Decides Catholic Adoption Agency has Right to Prevent LGBTQ+ Couples from Fostering Children

In a 7-2 decision Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled to leave Affordable Care Act intact, dismissing a challenge made against the ACA by several states led by Texas.  

The challenge claimed that the ACA’s individual mandate was unconstitutional. The plaintiffs had hoped that a ruling of the individual mandate as unconstitutional would declare every other provision of the ACA, and the entire law itself, unconstitutional as well. This is the third challenge to have been made against the ACA since the law’s adoption in 2010.  

The Supreme Court struck down the challenge because the plaintiff states had not suffered injury from the provisions they opposed. Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the decision, wrote that the plaintiffs “have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage position.”  

This ruling is a win for the Affordable Care Act, as well as for the 31 million Americans who have gained health care from the ACA. According to the Urban Institute’s estimates, over 21 million Americans would have been uninsured if the Supreme Court had overturned the ACA.  

“Once again, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and the transformational protections that it provides every American, no matter where they get their coverage. I want to thank the grassroots across the country who worked tirelessly as advocates for the Affordable Care Act, to pass it, to save it, and now to once again save it,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “Let me say definitively, the Affordable Care Act has won. The Supreme Court has just ruled: the ACA is here to stay.” 

Also today, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the city of Philadelphia could not refuse to contract with a Catholic adoption agency that denies same-sex couples the opportunity to foster children on the basis of the agency’s religious beliefs.  

The Court argued that Philadelphia’s refusal was a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause.  

In 2018, the city of Philadelphia cut ties with an adoption agency, Catholic Social Services, because the agency would not place children with LGBTQ+ couples. CSS sued the city of Philadelphia, arguing that they have the constitutional right to ignore nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious beliefs.  

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority decision, quoting the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, “We do not doubt that this interest is a weighty one, for ‘our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.’ On the facts of this case, however, this interest cannot justify denying CSS an exception for its religious exercise.” 

While the Supreme Court’s decision to side with the CSS is a blow to LGBTQ+ rights supporters, Leslie Cooper, the deputy director of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, notes that the narrow ruling is not an overwhelming defeat. “We are relieved that the court did not recognize a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs. Opponents of LGBTQ equality have been seeking to undo hard-won discrimination protections by asking the court to establish a constitutional right to opt out of such laws when discrimination is motivated by religious beliefs. This is the second time in four years that the court has declined to do so. This is good news for LGBTQ people and for everyone who depends on the protections of non-discrimination laws.”   

Sources: The Supreme Court 6/17/21; CNN 6/17/21; CNN 6/17/21; Urban Institute 10/2020; NBC 6/17/21; The Hill 6/17/21; ACLU 6/17/21; CNBC 6/17/21; ACLU 6/27/21 

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