Gay marriage, health care among last 7 Supreme Court cases

AP News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2015 12:34 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The right of same-sex couples to marry and the ability of low- and middle-income Americans to receive subsidies to help them afford insurance under the health care overhaul are the two biggest cases among the seven still to be decided by the Supreme Court.

The justices will meet again Thursday to hand down more opinions and almost always finish their work by the end of June.

In rare instances, the court will put off decisions and order a case to be argued again in the next term.

This is also the time of the year when a justice could announce a retirement. But no justice, including 82-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has given any hint that retirement is imminent.

A look at the cases that remain:

— Gay marriage: Same-sex couples want the court to declare that gay and lesbian couples can marry anywhere in the United States. Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are asking the court to uphold bans on same-sex marriage and allow the political process, not the courts, to handle major societal changes. Same-sex couples can marry in 36 states.

— Health care subsidies: Opponents of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul are back at the Supreme Court for another major challenge to the law. At issue is whether subsidies that 8.7 million people receive to help pay for their insurance are available in all 50 states, or only those that set up their own health insurance exchanges.

— Lethal injection: Death-row inmates in Oklahoma are objecting to the use of the sedative midazolam in lethal-injection executions after the drug was implicated in several botched executions. Their argument is that the drug does not reliably induce a coma-like sleep that would prevent them from experiencing the searing pain of the paralytic and heart-stopping drugs that follow sedation.

—Housing discrimination: The court is weighing the legality of a key enforcement tool used by the Obama administration and civil rights groups to fight housing bias. At issue is whether housing or lending practices that harm minorities can still be considered illegal even without proving an intent to discriminate. The Justice Department has used so-called "disparate impact" lawsuits to win more than $500 million in settlements from companies accused of bias against black and Hispanic customers.

— Independent redistricting commissions: Roughly a dozen states have adopted independent commissions to reduce partisan politics in drawing congressional districts. The case from Arizona involves a challenge from Republican state lawmakers who complain that they can't be completely cut out of the process without violating the Constitution.

— Mercury emissions: Industry groups and Republican-led states assert that environmental regulators overstepped their bounds by coming up with expensive limits on the emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants without taking account of the cost of regulation at the start of the process. The first-ever limits on mercury emissions, more than a decade in the making, began to take effect in April.

— Repeat offenders: The court is considering whether a catchall provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act, which gives longer prison terms to people with at least three prior violent felony convictions, is so vague that it sweeps in relatively minor crimes.