The Supreme Court last year blocked the right to have an abortion and now continues to slash away the basic rights of the population, targeting everyone, especially the rights of women, LGBTQ people, people of color, workers, students and more.
Defending the Right to Discriminate
Recently the court ruled in a 6-3 decision to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ customers. The case in question, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, examined the complaints of website creator Lorie Smith, a graphic designer who sued the state over a law called the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. Under that law, businesses providing services to the public cannot discriminate against individuals based on a number of personal traits, including sexual orientation.
Smith claimed that she wanted to start making wedding websites but wanted to refuse to work with same-sex couples — because she is clearly a bigot. Smith was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing hate group that frequently seeks out cases against LGBTQ people. And in this case, ADF gave a completely fictional account of a man and his same-sex partner asking Smith to create graphics for dinnerware and placeholders for their wedding in 2016. The man who Smith claimed made the request disputes ever reaching out to her — and recently told reporters that he has been married, with children, to a woman for the past 15 years.
But none of this mattered to the court. This was clearly a case of a right-wing organization inventing a case solely for the purpose of bringing it to the Supreme Court so that it could rule in favor of discrimination. And it did. This is the first case in history where the court has openly defended the ability for private businesses to discriminate against an entire group of people. This ruling was about the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people, but it could also easily be extended to allow all types of discrimination. With this single ruling, it’s as if the Supreme Court has green-lighted the return of “Whites Only” or “No Gays Allowed” signs on storefronts.
Banning Affirmative Action Programs in College Admissions
In two different decisions (6-3 and 6-2), the court struck down the right for colleges to use affirmative action programs in admissions. Affirmative action programs came about as a result of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. These programs were intended to be a small redress for the ongoing systemic racism of this society as well as the past centuries of discrimination against Black people and people of color in general. Affirmative action was supposed to allow schools, employers, and institutions to consider the entire background of the applicant, taking into account things like their race, gender, ethnicity, income status, their parents’ education, and where they lived, instead of only considering whatever the standard qualifications might be, such as test scores. When colleges only prioritize students’ grades and test scores, they unavoidably discriminate against poorer students, who are disproportionately students of color, who often do not have access to Advanced Placement (AP) classes, or expensive SAT prep courses, or private tutoring. Affirmative action programs have been able to help these students who may otherwise be denied admission to elite colleges. And now with the court’s ruling, the consideration of race has been barred from college admissions, once again privileging white and affluent children, and discriminating against students of color and the poor.
At the same time, many elite colleges have what are known as legacy admissions. This is special treatment that is given for students whose parents are alums of the school. Of course, the Supreme Court ignored this sort of affirmative action for the rich.
Also, the Supreme Court’s ruling explicitly allows for affirmative action programs to be used in admissions to military schools. It seems the Supreme Court thinks race should be a factor for military recruitment but not for going to college.
Affirmative action has been just one small attempt to address some of the racism of this society. It has been blocked, banned, and chipped away at ever since it was first implemented. To better address inequality and discrimination in schools, college should be free and guaranteed for all. Compared to that, affirmative action is nothing more than a more equitable way of managing the current unequal educational system. But there is no question that the Supreme Court’s latest action will simply make it easier for educational discrimination to get worse.
Blocking Student Loan Debt Relief
In another 6-3 ruling, the Court blocked the Biden administration’s student debt relief plan that would have canceled up to $10,000 of debt for people making less than $125,000 a year and $20,000 for people who received Pell Grants. This ruling blocks relief that would have helped about 40 million people who qualified for it.
The Biden administration can easily be blamed for this betrayal. Despite promising student debt relief on the campaign trail, Biden refused to use an executive order to cancel all student debt. Instead, his administration created an application for limited debt relief that took a long time to apply for and process, giving opponents plenty of time to make up legal objections to it. And now, the Biden administration claims it is unlikely to pursue debt cancellation any further. So, in the end, they created a debt cancellation program in words only, knowing it would likely get blocked. This allows them to appear as if they intended to cancel student debt without ever having to do it. This is a major blow to millions of people saddled with student debt.
Placing Limits on Workers’ Ability to Strike
In a near unanimous 8-1 ruling, the court ruled that companies can sue unions and workers for damage caused to the company during a strike. The court ruled in favor of the company Glacier Northwest (a concrete company in Seattle) and against a Teamsters local union. The ruling expanded the company’s power to sue a union for damages to its property during a strike. In this case, the company sued the strikers for not delivering the cement, and claimed that damaged their property. The ruling, with support from two so-called “liberal” justices, aims to deter unions and workers from going on strike by making them pay for the economic losses the company takes on because of the strike.
The whole point of striking is to exert pressure on the bosses by withholding workers’ labor. The point is for the company to lose money. The power that workers have is that they do the work to make society run, and when they strike, they can stop things from running. This ruling tries to weaken that power.
Ultimately, however, no court ruling can take away the power workers have in running the society. Just like in the past, with this ruling, winning against the bosses is going to require breaking their rules.
The Supreme Court Doesn’t Defend Our Rights
This recent round of rulings, like many before, exposes the Supreme Court for what it is. These nine judges on the Supreme Court don’t represent the interests of the majority of people in the U.S. The Supreme Court is simply the final interpreter of the laws of this country. But these laws are written to protect the rich and powerful and not the interests of poor and working people. The members of the Supreme Court are appointed for life terms by the president and approved by the Senate. Today, three-quarters of the Senate are men, 89 percent are white, and 40 percent are millionaires.
These recent rulings strip away some of the rights that others before have fought for and won. The Supreme Court wasn’t a different institution in the past, handing down these rights out of their own independent legal reasoning. They were forced to recognize the power of the population that was mobilizing in the streets. Without these mobilizations, the court can more easily be used as a tool to take away the rights we know we deserve.
The Supreme Court has always been a political organ of the ruling class. It was never intended to make decisions that benefit the majority of the population, and we can’t count on it to defend our rights. We have to fight to defend our rights ourselves.