The U.S. Supreme Court remains capable of issuing surprise big decisions that don’t break predictably along partisan lines.
That may be one important takeaway from Thursday’s major rulings, in which a court dominated by Republican nominees upheld the Affordable Care Act for the third time, and liberal justices joined in a unanimous decision that Philadelphia cannot bar a Catholic agency that refused to work with same-sex couples from screening foster parents.
“We hear all the time about divisions and polarization and culture wars and all that stuff. But this is a 9-0 ruling in a case involving religion and gay rights. And that’s significant,” says Richard Garnett, director of the Program on Church, State, and Society at the University of Notre Dame School of Law, referring to the foster parent case.
The ruling on the Affordable Care Act – the big government-provided health care expansion passed during the presidency of Barack Obama – may mark the conclusion of a particularly bitter and lengthy political struggle.