Reflections on Recent Supreme Court Rulings

June 29, 2015

The King v. Burwell ruling issued Thursday should be extremely concerning to everyone who values the rule of law over the wants or desires of individuals. This is the most prominent principal on which our nation was founded to protect us from tyranny and an abusive government. In Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion he rightfully stated, “The Court forgets that ours is a government of laws and not of men. That means we are governed by the terms of our laws, not by the unenacted will of our lawmakers.”

The fact is the plain language written in the Affordable Care Act stated that only those that were receiving coverage through a state run exchange could receive subsidies. Certainly had the Supreme Court ruled differently Congress would have needed to act to offer some type of reasonable alternative to the individuals impacted. During the 2015 Session, House Republicans passed proactive legislation that would have put our laws in a posture to allow those currently receiving subsidies to gain less expensive insurance coverage that they could afford. The measure passed the legislature but was ultimately vetoed by the Governor.

Every year the General Assembly passes laws where the patron or supporters may have intended for it to work one way, but the language of the legislation as passed and signed by the Governor requires that it actually be applied differently than the legislature may have intended. All of my colleagues would agree that this is something we should try to avoid; hence why our founders had the foresight to develop a legislative process that involves numerous hurdles that can be cumbersome and hard to overcome at times. However, even with this process in place mistakes happen, we are only human. When this occurs do we rely on the courts or the agency administering the new policy to make assumptions about what we may have meant? No, we go back the next year and try to change the law to more closely align with our intentions.

When our court system and leaders think it is acceptable to interpret laws based on what we want them to be or what we think they should have been, rather than what they are, it creates a slippery slope. If the court or an executive can essentially change the law without the legislature taking the action, it negates the need for the legislative body. In turn, once you don’t need the legislature, you really don’t need the judicial system either. That natural progression ensures that you are well on the way to a dictatorship or an oligarchy. To be absolutely clear, I’m not suggesting we have reached that point, but decisions like this could certainly lay the first block of the foundation.

Regardless of your party affiliation or whether or not you support the Affordable Care Act, I hope you consider the potential implications of this ruling beyond the merits of the policy being considered. I pray that we aren’t able look back 50 years from now and pinpoint this ruling as the turning point in our representative democracy.

I am also certainly disheartened by the Supreme Court’s decision in the same sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges. I still believe that marriage should be a union between one man and one woman.

Unfortunately the Supreme Court has made their decision, and as a nation governed by the rule of law we must respect their authority and comply with the law.

Now the battle must turn towards protecting religious liberties. We have already seen numerous challenges to those who do not wish to abandon the principals of their faith to facilitate a union that they believe their faith calls them to oppose. Religious leaders should not be forced to marry same sex individuals, nor should a baker be required to make a cake for a same sex wedding. I intend to vehemently oppose any effort to require individuals to abandon their faith in order to avoid prosecution or financial ruin.