SCOTUS Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Bans

In a 5-4 ruling the United States Supreme Court has struck down same-sex marriage bans that remained in place across the country.

Amendment One, passed by North Carolina voters in 2012 banning same-sex marriage in the Tar Heel state, was struck down by the fourth circuit court of appeals in 2014. As federal courts continued to strike down marriage bans, the sixth circuit court of appeals chose to uphold bans in its district. That decision brought the case before the Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court heard arguments over same-sex marriage bans in late April and Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the ruling on Friday.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt issued the following statement:

It’s a great day for all Americans and for the promise of our democracy. Today the Supreme Court affirmed what a bipartisan supermajority—60%—of Americans have come to understand: the freedom to marry is a precious, fundamental right that belongs to all. This decision is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love. State officials should now move swiftly to implement the Court’s decision in the remaining 13 states with marriage discrimination. Same-sex couples and their families have waited long enough for this moment.

As we celebrate this victory, we know we have a lot of work left to do. It is more critical than ever that we harness the momentum borne from the marriage conversation to secure true full equality for LGBTQ people. No one should have to choose between getting married and being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or being denied service in restaurants and shops simply for being who they are. Hate, violence and deep barriers to healthcare access continue to harm LGBTQ people, especially trans people of color; and LGBTQ immigrants face widespread abuses in ICE detention centers.

The decades-long freedom to marry movement made history, fundamentally transforming the way Americans understand gay people. We stand together as a Proud community today, ready to continue working until the lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is fulfilling, good, inclusive, and equal throughout the land.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle issued this statement:

Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges is life altering for thousands of Americans. From this day forward, under the laws of our country, same-sex couples now have the absolute legal right to be married. I am so proud to be the mayor of a town that let the charge to this day – thank you, Carrboro.

So many of us were ready to receive the benefits and accept the responsibilities that marriage entailed, but never dreamed that we would be able to marry our partners in our lifetimes. Now we can.

Some may say that this victory came with surprising speed. It is difficult to think of another social sea change that had such a sprint to the finish line. But such a focus is too narrow, as it does not acknowledge or honor the people that suffered and the people that worked tirelessly to get us to this day. Nor does it recognize the people who will never know the benefits of marriage equality. Some were silent in the closet, some battled in the headlines. Many died without knowing that their efforts bore fruit, or without being able to publicly declare their love for another. But we know. We remember. We carry on for you. And we are grateful.

So today we celebrate and give thanks, and tomorrow we get back to work. One only needs look at other civil rights movements to realize that despite this accomplishment, there are more challenges to come. But that is okay – loving won today.

4th District Congressman David Price issued the following statement:

I join many of my constituents, some of whom have been waiting for this moment for a long time, in celebrating today’s Supreme Court decision, which continues the remarkable progress we have made as a country toward equal rights for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I am reminded this morning of the landmark cases of the Civil Rights era, when justice finally won out over long-standing prejudice.

“But we should also remember that we still have a long way to go – in many parts of the country, including North Carolina, LGBT Americans still don’t enjoy equal protection against discrimination in the workplace, in schools, by medical providers, or in public facilities. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that all of our neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family members are treated fairly under the law.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/scotus-strikes-down-same-sex-marriage-bans/

More than 400,000 in NC Keep Obamacare Subsidies

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the tax breaks for those who purchased health insurance through the federally-run exchange. The ruling allows more than 400,000 North Carolina residents to keep subsidies that help pay for their health insurance premiums.

The question at hand in King v. Burwell was whether a small line of text in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibited the federal government from providing subsidies for health insurance to people in states without their own exchanges. North Carolina is among 34 such states. Duke University professor Don Taylor says more than half-a-million North Carolina residents purchased insurance through the ACA, and most of them are receiving the federal subsidies that were in question.

“Ninety-one percent of the North Carolinians have gotten a subsidy, and the average amount of that subsidy is about $315 a month,” Taylor said.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to allow the federal subsidies to flow to all states, whether their exchange is state-run or not. Chief Justice Roberts, who ruled with the majority, said the line in question had to be read within the greater context of the ACA, which was to “improve health insurance markets.”

North Carolina Congressman David Price says he is relieved by the Court’s ruling on what he calls a “drafting error” in the ACA.

“It’s a very fortunate decision; it’s a common sense decision,” Price said. “And from what I’ve seen, Chief Justice Roberts’ reasoning in ruling this way reflects that. This is a matter of discerning Congress’ intent, despite this drafting error, and making sure that the nation doesn’t suffer the consequences of an overly literal focus on this one omission in the law.”

The ruling means more than 400,000 North Carolinians will keep their subsidies. It also puts an end to a serious threat to the future of Obamacare. Taylor says ending the federal subsidies would have forced many people to drop coverage and destabilized the entire health insurance exchange.

“If the healthy people flow out because the premiums go up, and you only have sick people left, then that’s called ‘death-spiral,’ and that insurance market is unsustainable,” Taylor said.

Now that the ACA is no longer threatened, Price says it’s important to shift focus to expanding Medicaid in the state. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling on the ACA allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion.

“It’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court left that loophole,” Price said. “It’s even more unfortunate, I think, that North Carolina and other states are taking advantage of the loophole to detriment of – in the case of our state – almost half-a-million people.”

Governor Pat McCrory has given no indication that he will call for Medicaid expansion. In a statement his office released Thursday, the Governor said quote “we must build a North Carolina-based reform plan that focuses on healthier patients at a cost taxpayers can afford.”

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/more-than-400000-in-nc-keep-obamacare-subsidies/

SCOTUS Keeps Affordable Care Act Subsidies

***UPDATE: The Supreme Court has issued a 6-3 ruling allowing subsidies to continue to be offered in states that did not establish their own marketplace. You can read the full opinion here.***

The U.S. Supreme Court will release a decision within the next few days that may affect more than half a million North Carolinians who purchased health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

The question before the Court in King v. Burwell is whether the federal government overreached when it allowed subsidies to flow to states, like North Carolina, that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges.

North Carolina is among 34 states that do not have state-run health insurance marketplaces. That means North Carolina residents who want to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act have to do so through the federally-run exchange. About 550,000 North Carolinians did just that, and most of them, says Duke University public policy professor Don Taylor, received tax breaks to help pay for their premiums.

“Ninety-one percent of the North Carolinians have gotten a subsidy,” Taylor said,  “and the average amount of that subsidy is about $315 a month.”

The plaintiffs in the case argue the Affordable Care Act does not allow the federal government to give those subsidies to people in states that don’t have a state-run exchange.

“So if the Supreme Court had a simple finding for the plaintiffs,” Taylor said, “then the tax credits that are coming to North Carolinians today, they would lose those tax credits, their insurance bills would then go up, and then presumably many of them would them drop their coverage.”

Taylor says not only would such a ruling affect those who dropped their coverage because they couldn’t afford the premium, it could topple the entire federally-run exchange:

“The problem is the people who wouldn’t drop coverage, the people who are desperate to keep their insurance, are probably people who are sick. And any type of insurance market—whether it’s car insurance, homeowner’s or health insurance—if the healthy people flow out because the premiums go up, and you only have sick people left, then that’s called ‘death-spiral,’ and that insurance market is unsustainable.”

If the Court does rule for the plaintiff, Taylor says depending on the details of the ruling, there could be some legislative fixes at the national and the state levels to keep the tax breaks coming.

“Maybe North Carolina could pass a simple law that says we desire for the subsidies to still flow in North Carolina. But then it’s back to a political question again.”

The Supreme Court is expected to release a decision by Monday, June 29.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/half-million-in-nc-await-scotus-obamacare-decision/

Chapel Hill’s Mayor Weighs In On SCOTUS Rulings

CHAPEL HILL – The United States Supreme Court ruled that a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized marriage at the federal level as only between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

The court also decided not to take up California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative, which banned gay marriage in the state after it was already legal. Its decision not to take up Prop 8 means that the previous ruling in the state, which ruled the initiative unconstitutional, is upheld.

As the decisions were read to the public, speculation began about how the ruling would affect gay and lesbian individuals in North Carolina, including many prominent local figures.

WCHL’s Afternoon and Evening Host, Aaron Keck, spoke with Chapel Hill’s Mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt Wednesday about the SCOTUS’ historic rulings.

***Listen to the Interview***

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/chapel-hills-mayor-weighs-in-on-scotus-rulings/

Prominent Local Residents React To DOMA, Prop 8 Rulings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Supreme Court ruled that a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized marriage at the federal level as only between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

The court also decided not to take up California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative, which banned gay marriage in the state after it was already legal. Its decision not to take up Prop 8 means that the previous ruling in the state, which ruled the initiative unconstitutional, is upheld.

As the decisions were read to the public, speculation began about how the ruling would affect gay and lesbian individuals in North Carolina, including many prominent local figures.

Lydia Lavelle, Carrboro Board of Aldermen member and assistant professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law, as well as the first out lesbian to run for Mayor of Carrboro, says that while DOMA is no longer in effect and previous California court rulings that overturned Prop 8 are now overturned, this decision does not immediately affect North Carolinians.

***Listen to the Full Interview***

“Nothing is different in any state where there was not already same-sex marriage,” Lavelle says. “What this is is a victory for those who live in the now-13 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is allowed.”

Tom Jensen, who has spoken with WCHL numerous times as director of Public Policy Polling, says that, as a gay man, he is happy about the rulings and their impact on the LGBTQ community but is still disappointed that the rulings will not make same-sex marriage legal across the country.

***Listen to the Interview***

“It’s still going to be a while before states like North Carolina get in line, especially when you look at passing Amendment One by a 22-point margin just last year,” Jensen says.

However, Jensen compares recent PPP polls that showed opposition to same-sex marriage leading by 16 points as a sign that North Carolina is gradually getting closer to overturning the marriage ban.

“You also have to have a legislature willing to put Amendment One repeal on the ballot,” Jensen says. “Obviously, this current, very Republican legislature that was responsible for Amendment One in the first place; I’m not sure if they’re going to do that.”

While DOMA, the federal law barring same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits related to marital status, was overturned, same-sex married couples living in states without recognition of their marriage, like North Carolina, would not receive benefits.

Lavelle says that, since marriage had typically been a state issue and the federal government intervened with DOMA, the legal outcome of the court’s ruling will be complicated.

“They intruded a little bit into what was previously states’ rights territory,” Lavelle says. “Now, by pulling that away, but yet it being tied to the way the state defines marriage, it’s going to get a little murkier before it gets clean.”

North Carolina amended the state’s constitution to say that “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized” on May 8, 2012 with passing of Amendment One.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/prominent-local-residents-react-to-doma-prop-8-rulings/