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Supreme Court to tackle affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 1st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Supreme Court is gearing up for a new term that will hear a host of highly important cases that will drastically impact American life. Among the cases to be decided will be major rulings about affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - After upholding President Obama's health care overhaul, the same court lineup of justices' returns to the bench this week.

Chief Justice John Roberts has joined the court's liberals in sustaining the health care law. The big cases this time around seem likely to have Roberts in his more accustomed role of voting with his fellow conservatives. 

A battle over the University of Texas' affirmative action program is the first major case on the court's calendar, with argument scheduled for October 10. Texas uses multiple factors, including community service, work experience, extracurricular activities, awards and race, to help fill the last 20 to 25 percent of the spots in its freshman classes. The court's decision could further limit -- or end the use of racial preferences in college admissions.

This highly contentious matter of gay marriage will be addressed by the court. Several cases seek to guarantee federal benefits for legally married same-sex couples. A provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act deprives same-sex couples of a range of federal benefits available to heterosexual couples.

Some federal courts held that that the provision of the law is unconstitutional. It's a given among most court watchers that the Supreme Court will step up to the plate on the issue.

A separate appeal is asking the justices to sustain California's Proposition 8, the amendment to the state constitution that upheld marriage as between one man and one woman and refuded to alter the definition in the nation's largest state. It must be noted that justices may not even consider whether to hear the gay marriage issue until November.

The future of a cornerstone law of the civil rights movement is also a hot button topic of discussion between the justices.

Congress overwhelmingly approved in 2006, with President George W. Bush's signature, legislation extending for 25 more years a critical piece of the Voting Rights Act. The act requires states and local governments with a history of racial and ethnic discrimination, chiefly the southern states, to get advance approval either from the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington before making any changes that affect elections.

Cases from Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas could prompt the court to deal head on with the issue of advance approval. The South Carolina and Texas cases involve voter identification laws; a similar Indiana law was previously upheld by the court.

Arguments in these issues will not take place until next year.

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