Over the past few weeks, the Supreme Court has steadily published dozens of opinions on a range of issues affecting the United States. Earlier this month, we celebrated as the Supreme Court blocked Alabama’s racially gerrymandered Congressional maps and upheld Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now, as the end of the term approaches, the future of our democracy, LGBTQ+ rights, and affirmative action are on the line. Here are three upcoming Supreme Court decisions you should know about:
Case 1: Moore v. Harper
We were proud to join an amicus brief in Moore v. Harper, a major case with monumental implications for the future of our democracy. The case originated in North Carolina, after the North Carolina Supreme Court declared the state’s gerrymandered Congressional maps unconstitutional in February 2022. In response, a group of North Carolina lawmakers appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court based on the “independent state legislature theory,” arguing that the Constitution grants state legislatures ultimate authority to draw Congressional maps, immune from state judicial review. This new theory contradicts 200 years of precedent and, if upheld, could provide state legislatures unchecked power to gerrymander federal electoral maps and enact discriminatory voting rules that suppress voters of color and threaten religious minorities.
The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Moore v. Harper in December 2022, but the North Carolina Supreme Court took the unusual step in April 2023 of reversing its decision in the underlying case. While we do not know if or how this reversal will affect the United States Supreme Court’s ruling later this month, it is clear that this case may determine the future of free and fair elections across the United States.
Case 2: 303 Creative v. Elenis
In this case, the Supreme Court is considering whether businesses have a First Amendment right to refuse services to same-sex couples. The case arose after a Colorado wedding website designer sued the state in federal court, arguing that Colorado’s law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations violates her religious beliefs.
As Reform Jews, we know that deep faith and a commitment to LGBTQ+ equality are not mutually exclusive – and as we argued in an amicus brief alongside over 30 religious, civil rights, and grassroots organizations, nondiscrimination laws must carefully balance equality and religious liberty. But the Supreme Court’s decision could create a broad new free speech exception in public accommodation law, opening the door to further discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, as well as religious minorities and other marginalized groups. At a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under unprecedented attack across the nation, we urge the Supreme Court to uphold nondiscrimination protections.
Case 3: Students for Fair Admission, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina
Due to the enduring legacy of slavery and ongoing systemic racism, K-12 education remains largely inequitable across the United States. For decades, affirmative action policies have helped give students of color a fair shot at higher education, ensuring that every student who wants to attend college has the freedom and opportunity to follow their dreams. In these two cases, however, the Supreme Court has the potential to overturn years of precedent by deciding that colleges and universities can no longer consider race as one of several factors in admissions.
Efforts to increase racial diversity in higher education benefit everyone, infusing campuses with a range of perspectives and lived experiences, promoting socioeconomic mobility, and fostering a diverse workforce. In an increasingly diverse country, we must lift up the gifts and talents of all individuals. The Reform Movement is committed to racial justice, and as a multiracial Jewish community, we know that diversity is our strength. As we await an outcome in these cases, we continue to work towards greater educational equity and the promise of a multiracial democracy.
Note: While both cases consider the role of race in college admissions, the two cases are technically separate and reflect the nuances of each university's admissions process. It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will rule on the questions unique to each case and the future of affirmative action overall.
We will watch closely as the Supreme Court releases decisions in the coming days. Stay tuned as we respond to each decision and share opportunities to take action.