Locals applaud recent Supreme Court rulings

Locals applaud recent Supreme Court rulings
July 02
00:00 2015

In above photo: U.S. supreme Court building

Decisions on Obamacare, gay marriage, fair housing

Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, subsidies that allow millions to afford health insurance through the Affordable Care Act will continue, and unintentional housing discrimination is still illegal.

Those were the US Supreme Court rulings last week that had activists both locally and nationwide celebrating. The court’s historic 5-4 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide and requiring all states to recognize same-sex unions was the decision that got the most attention.

The White House was lit in rainbow colors the night of June 26, and millions of Facebook users put a “Celebrate Pride” rainbow filter over their profile photos to show support for the ruling. The Rev. Roger Hayes, pastor of Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship, took to Facebook declaring victory after hearing the news.

For the last 14 years, Hayes, an openly gay black pastor, has led a small non-denominational congregation open to those who are lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGBT). He said he’s officiated over same-sex weddings years before they were recognized by the state.-same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina on October 10, 2014, when a federal judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. That weekend, Hayes presided over the wedding of a lesbian couple and was able to say the words “by the power invested in me by the state of North Carolina” for the first time as he officiated. Now, thanks to what he said was a “wonderful” Supreme Court ruling, he’ll be able to continue saying it.

“It speaks to the justice-mindedness of the country as the country enters into a season, I truly do believe it is a season of civil rights and of justice,” he said.
Hayes said he thought the decision would make Senate Bill 2, a recently passed state law that allows magistrates to recuse themselves from marrying same-sex couples if they have religious objections to marrying a couple, unconstitutional because it allows magistrates to not perform same-sex marriages.

Wake Forest University Law Professor Shannon Gilreath agreed. He said the majority in the Supreme Court cited Loving v. Virginia, which established the right of interracial marriage, in its decision, giving same sex couples the same type of fundamental constitutional protections.

“Same sex marriage now occupies the same space constitutionally that interracial marriage occupies,” he said, “If an interracial couple presented themselves to a magistrate who said ‘Sorry, but I won’t marry you because the Bible tells me the races shouldn’t mix,’ I think there’s no question that the magistrate’s actions would be unconstitutional.”

Regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Lafayette Jones and Sandra Miller Jones were particularly elated over the ruling that upheld the subsidies that help lower and middle income Americans buy private insurance in the health insurance exchanges or marketplaces set up by the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare.

“We think it is a victory for millions of people who finally have access to quality affordable health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act,” said Sandra Miller Jones.

For the past three years the couple’s company, Segmented Marketing Services Inc. has been signing up thousands of people for health insurance through the ACA’s marketplace. They’ve been informing thousands more about it through navigators that spread the world about the new law, advertising, direct mail marketing and their Urban Call magazine.

They said the stakes were very high, with 85 percent of the 10.2 million consumers who enrolled in health insurance through the exchanges qualifying for subsidies. The couple said they’d gotten many calls from consumers concerned about if their subsidizes might go way.

“There’s no longer an uncertainty,” Lafayette Jones said.

Mark Hall, a WFU professor of law and public health, said if the Supreme Court had ruled the other way, declaring that the wording in the law didn’t allow for consumers in states like North Carolina that use the federal healthcare exchange to get subsidies, millions would’ve seen their financial assistance disappear. Many would’ve found health insurance simply too expensive to be able to afford and dropped it. The mass exodus of insurance consumers may have caused health insurances prices to sky rocket and potentially caused a collapse of the whole market.
He said that the “coast is clear” for the ACA in the courts with no other major challenges to the fundamentals of the law.

Fair housing activists like Winston-Salem Human Relations Department Director Wanda Allen-Abraha were glad the Supreme Court upheld the use of disparate impact in fair housing cases, which says discrimination doesn’t not have to be intentional to be illegal.

The local Human Relations Department mediates landlord/tenant disputes and has about a dozen fair housing claims a year, which allege discrimination against a tenant on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, nationality or disability.

Allen-Abraha said disparate impact allows for fair housing cases to be argued based on the discriminatory impacts of an action and not just its intention. This is true not just in individual cases, but in cases involving lending and other housing policies such as the case the Supreme Court ruled on, in which a concentration of low income tax credits in black neighborhoods unacceptably increased segregation even if the practice wasn’t intentionally racist.

“I think the decision is just an affirmation for a lot of the work that had been taking place around the country over the past 40 years,” she said.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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