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Supreme Court Rules on the ACA & Interplay Between the First Amendment & LGBTQ Community

On June 17, 2021, the Supreme Court issued two decisions that may concern employers and their businesses.

In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Catholic Social Services (“CSS”), a foster care agency located in Philadelphia, has the right to refuse to work with same-sex couples when screening for potential foster parents. The City of Philadelphia refused to refer children to CSS upon learning that the agency would not certify same-sex couples as parents due to its religious beliefs on marriage. CSS and several affiliated foster parents filed suit, alleging that the referral freeze violated the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. 

The Supreme Court ruled that CSS “seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.” Thus, the Court held that “it is plain that the city's actions have burdened CSS's religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs.” Because the Court found that the City violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, it did not rule on the agency’s Free Speech claim.

In California v. Texas, the Supreme Court upheld the penalty provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“the Act”), holding that Texas, seventeen other state plaintiffs and two individuals did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of  26 U. S. C. §5000A(a)), the part of the Act that nullified the monetary penalty for failing to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage.

In 2010, the Act required many Americans to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage and imposed a monetary penalty on most individuals who failed to do so. In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519 (2012), the Supreme Court upheld the Act as an exercise of Congress’ taxing power. In 2017, amendments to the Act reduced the penalty to $0. Shortly after the Amendment took effect, Texas and the other plaintiffs filed suit, seeking an order declaring the Amendment unconstitutional, a finding that the rest of the Act is not severable from §5000A(a), and an injunction against enforcement of the rest of the Act.

The Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge §5000A(a)’s minimum essential coverage provision because they had “not shown a past or future injury fairly traceable to defendants’ conduct enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional.” The Court was unpersuaded by the state plaintiffs’ claims of indirect injury in the form of increased costs to run state-operated medical insurance programs and direct injury resulting from increased expenses. In essence, the Court found that plaintiffs had “not shown that any kind of Government action or conduct has caused or will cause the injury they attribute to §5000A(a).” 

The Supreme Court is set to issue other decisions on a variety of other matters before its term ends on June 30, including the free speech rights of public school students off-campus; whether certain academic-related perks can be provided to NCAA athletes; and voting-rights issues. Miller Canfield will continue to provide updates as the Court issues its decisions.  

© 2021 Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone PLC National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 169
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About this Author

Michelle Crockett attorney diversity inclusion Miller Canfield Detroit
Chief Diversity Officer

Michelle P. Crockett leads the firm's hiring of all attorneys, recruitment, diversity & inclusion initiatives, mentoring programs, professional development and continuing education (CLE) initiatives. 

She also specializes in defending Fortune 500 companies and public-sector clients, against a variety of employment-related claims. She conducts internal investigations which involve claims of harassment, retaliation, discrimination, malfeasance, and misappropriation of funds. In addition, Michelle has an expertise in providing litigation and traditional labor advice to school...

313-496-7655
Ashley N. Higginson Employment Attorney Miller Canfield Law Firm
Associate

Ashley Higginson's practice focuses on employment and labor issues, with particular experience in education matters.

Ashley has extensive experience working with public school districts, charter and private schools, and schools for students with disabilities. Her work includes matters involving boards of education, the Open Public Records Act, FERPA, teacher tenure, special education and 504 accommodations, teacher tenure charges, harassment and discrimination claims, public bidding and union negotiation.

Ashley has...

517-483-4912
Jessica Pask Labor & Employment Attorney Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone Detroit, MI
Associate

Jessica works with the Employment and Labor Group assisting with litigation and arbitration and representing various clients in labor relations and immigration issues. She obtained law degrees in both the U.S. and in Canada, giving her a broad understanding of the issues clients face in both countries. In addition to her law degree, Jessica holds two undergraduate degrees, one in Nutrition and Nutraceuticals and one in Sociology, and an M.Sc. in Clinical Studies with an emphasis in environmental studies from the Ontario Veterinary College.

313-496-7815
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