The Supreme Court begins its new term Monday, with the nine justices — the majority of them conservative — deciding disputes on affirmative action, voting, religion, free speech, and gay rights.
"Get ready for a lot of 6-3s," Irv Gornstein, the executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown Law, told the The New York Times.
According to the news outlet, several of the biggest cases concern race in settings like education, voting, and adoptions — including challenges to admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that could end 40 years of precedents.
Two education cases — Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina — are set to be argued Oct. 31.
On Monday, the court is considering an important water rights case that could limit federal regulation under the nation's main water pollution law, the Clean Water Act, The Associated Press reported.
The Times noted race will also be front and center in a voting rights case to be argued Tuesday. Merrill v. Milligan is a challenge under the Voting Rights Act to an Alabama electoral map that a lower court had said diluted the power of Black voters.
Another election case, Moore v. Harper, which could dramatically affect federal elections by bolstering the power of state legislatures to draw voting districts and set voting rules, doesn't have a date yet for arguments, the Times reported.
A date has not been announced for landmark culture war case: 303 Creative LLC v. Ellen's, which concerns whether some businesses open to the public may refuse to provide services to potential customers based on religious or other convictions.
In the case, Lorie Smith, who owns a website design company that says it serves gay customers but intends to limit its wedding-related services to celebrations of heterosexual unions, argues requiring her to provide those services to gay and lesbian couples violates her right to free speech.
The court last considered the issue in 2018 in a dispute involving a Colorado baker and a gay couple, but the justices failed to yield a definitive ruling.
The high court on Nov. 9 will hear arguments in a challenge to the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which makes it hard for non-Native Americans to adopt Native children. The law at issue in the case of Harland v. Bracken may turn on whether the court views those safeguards as based on race, making them vulnerable to constitutional review, the Times reported.
The new term for the high court comes in the wake of its slide in approval ratings. In a Gallup poll released Thursday, 58% of Americans said they disapproved of the job the Supreme Court was doing.
The responses were split along partisan lines, with Republicans generally approving of the work of both the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary. According to the Times, the overall findings show the court has moved to the right of the median voter.
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