The Supreme Court is poised to answer some important questions for this course — look for decisions on Same-sex marriage, voting rights law, affirmative action, and patenting DNA.
In terms of same-sex marriage — it’s important because the federal DOMA prevents legally married same-sex couples from having the same rights as other married couples. This impacts folks in the military because the military got rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell” — so now military couples can be legally married but not get the substantial benefits afforded to military spouses. Another important aspect of this case is that same-sex couples can’t claim the same capitol gains tax benefits. They can’t file as a married couple and as a result they pay significantly more in taxes.
Affirmative action is about college admissions and considering race when admitting students to elite colleges. This is interesting, especially in light of a pilot program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. There they used income instead of race as a bonus — in that they gave some preference to students from low-income areas. They found that the classes they admitted were more ethnically diverse than when they considered race. They also found that the low-income students were more likely to finish their courses etc… So, maybe affirmative action based on race isn’t necessary.. hmmm…
Voting rights — these cases are about eliminating the extra-oversight put in place after the civil rights movement, to insure that places that historically were more heavily African had fair elections. Those areas say that the additional oversight is seeking to prevent problems they no longer have.
Patenting DNA – -this one is an interesting situation. Bio-tech companies have been doing research with the aim of developing innovative treatments for diseases like cancer. The thing is, because of the intense nature of the research — their research is very expensive. They claim that they are creating a new product and as a result, even the patients whose DNA is the basis for the treatment would need to pay to receive that treatment. If you’re interested in this, plus issues of income inequality and a whole lot of other stuff, check out the story about Henrietta Lacks.