June is shaping up to be an historic month. The status of affirmative action, gay marriage, genetic patents and the Voting Rights Act are all on the line.
The court will appear in five public sessions before June 24 to announce their rulings on 30 remaining cases. The justices have already privately cast their votes — throwing Supreme Court junkies and pundits into a frenzy of analysis in the intervening weeks.
Among the more controversial Supreme Court cases is Windsor v. U.S., or the status of the Defense of Marriage Act. However, proponents of marriage equality should not expect much, as this is largely a matter of states’ rights. Several states argue they should not have to abide by laws passed in other states allowing same-sex marriage benefits. Advocates of equality might have to set in for a longer battle as gay marriage, like women’s suffrage, will be fought on a lengthy, state-by-state basis.
Another case for consideration is Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, concerning racial affirmative action. Many predict a monumental overturn of affirmative action policies by virtue of the fact that the court decided to take the case on. The court’s last ruling on this was 12 years ago. Some point to a selection bias of Supreme Court cases that favors a change or at least a reexamination of the status quo.
Harder to predict, however, is the case concerning genetic patents, or Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics. On the one hand, genetic patents will encourage medical innovation much like copyright encourages creative innovation. On the opposing side, such patents might withhold lifesaving cures from sick patients.
Finally, at risk is the federal oversight of elections in municipalities with a history of discrimination. Much like Fisher v. Texas, Nix v. Holder is the result of growing pains within a post-racial society. With a slight conservative majority on the bench, it would not be unlikely to see the provision overturned.