It’s decision time for the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a full plate of issues before it: immigration, religious freedom and voter rights.
The justices already issued a ruling striking down a law that barred sports gambling in most states, issued a narrow ruling in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex couple and upheld a state’s law that purged voters who didn’t cast a ballot or respond to warnings in several years.
Read on for a look at some of the bigger cases justices are expected to decide or have already ruled on.
In a test of free speech and religious freedom, the Supreme Court took up a case focused on whether a business owner has to create a product that is against his or her deeply-held religious beliefs regarding marriage.
The case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission centered around Jack Phillips, who declined to create a cake for the wedding celebration of two gay men in 2012. Phillips maintained that he would sell anything in his store to the couple, but could not create a new cake to celebrate same-sex marriage due to his religious beliefs and convictions about male-female matrimony.
In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated Phillips’ rights under the First Amendment. However, in its limited ruling, the Supreme Court did not decide on the big issue: whether a business can refuse to serve gay and lesbian people.
“The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil rights, but religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression,” the order read. “While it is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
Another test of religious freedom before the Supreme Court comes with National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. In that case, NIFLA, a nonprofit representing pro-life and religious pregnancy centers, is suing California over a law that requires pregnancy centers to inform patients about family planning options available in the state, including abortion.
NIFLA President Thomas Glessner has argued that the law requires anti-abortion centers to be “advertising for abortion.”
“Can the government impose and compel a faith-based ministry to proclaim a message that they are fundamentally opposed to with the risk of being fined or shut down? That’s the issue here,” Glessner previously told Fox News.
“Can the government impose and compel a faith-based ministry to proclaim a message that they are fundamentally opposed to with the risk of being fined or shut down?”
However, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra defended the law as a way for patients to get “accurate information” about healthcare options.
“Information is power, and all women should have access to the information they need when making personal health care decisions,” he said.
The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments pertaining to the Trump administration’s controversial ban on travel by residents of a handful of Muslim-majority countries. The court is set to determine if the ban — which affects people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — discriminates on the basis of nationality and religion in the issuing of immigrant visas.
A decision in Trump v. Hawaii is expected in June and could become a precedent-setting ruling on the limits of executive power, especially in the context of immigration.
The Supreme Court could upend a decades-old precedent that allowed unions to collect fees from public employees, including ones who were not part of the union. The case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31 forces the justices to decide if so-called “agency-shop” arrangements are allowed.
Mark Janus, employed at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, set the ball in motion when he sued because he didn’t want a certain fee deducted from his paycheck to go toward a union just because he worked for the state. His lawyers argued that the payment could violate First Amendment rights if someone is forced to pay a fee to an organization with different views than he or she holds.
The court has to decide if it will overrule its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. In that case, it held that schoolteachers should pay unions as long as the money goes toward collective bargaining and other such issues — not ideological causes.
Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, has argued that strong labor unions are needed because they give “the strength in numbers [workers] need to fight for the freedoms they deserve,” including retirement plans and health care.
The high court heard a similar case in 2016, but the death of Justice Antonin Scalia meant the case ended in a 4-4 decision, Reuters reported.
In what’s considered a pivotal case regarding voting rights, the Supreme Court decided to allow Ohio to clean up its voting rolls by targeting people who have not cast ballots in a certain amount of time.
In a 5-4 decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court rejected arguments that the practice violates a federal law intended to increase the ranks of registered voters. A handful of other states also use voters’ inactivity to trigger a process that could lead to their removal from the voting rolls.
Under Ohio rules, registered voters who fail to vote in a two-year period are targeted for eventual removal from registration rolls, even if they haven’t moved and otherwise remain eligible. The state said it only uses the disputed process after first comparing its voter lists with a U.S. postal service list of people who have reported a change of address. But not everyone who moves notifies the post office, the state said.
So the state asks people who haven’t voted in two years to confirm their eligibility. If they do, or if they show up to vote over the next four years, voters remain registered. If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters.
The case is titled Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute.
The Supreme Court decided what voters could wear when they head to the polls, ruling on June 14 that a broad state ban on wearing “political apparel” such as a Tea Party-linked shirt or a “Please I.D. Me” button at the polls violated the free speech rights of voters.
The case of Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky began in 2010, when Minnesotan Andrew Cilek wore such apparel when he went to vote. One of the items voters were to decide on then, the Star Tribune reported, was whether Minnesota voters should have to show photo identification when voting. At first, Cilek was prevented from voting after he refused to cover up his shirt. He was later able to vote, but had to leave his information with poll workers.
The ruling said despite any “good intentions” by the state, regulation of such individual expression cannot be reasonably applied because of overly sweeping prohibitions.
Should courts step in when lawmakers draw up new district maps that favor their party? With Gill v. Whitford, the Supreme Court is facing just such a pivotal decision.
The court is determining whether Republican legislators in Wisconsin, who drew a new election map that skewed in favor of their party after they took control in 2010, went too far with gerrymandering. The court is also being asked to endorse a standard for redistricting that would then apply nationwide.
Redistricting is a major issue in many states, and this case isn’t the only one the nation’s highest court has heard. Justices are also considering a situation in Texas, regarding a lower court ruling that said a redistricting map was intentionally discriminatory.
In South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., the Supreme Court is tasked with deciding whether online shoppers should consistently be charged a sales tax.
The justices have heard arguments in a case that deals with how businesses collect sales tax for online purchases at sites from Amazon to Zappos. Currently, thanks to a decades-old Supreme Court rule, if a business is shipping a product to a state where it doesn’t have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn’t have to collect the state’s sales tax.
Customers are generally required to pay the tax to the state themselves if they don’t get charged, but the vast majority do not do so.
Businesses who defend the current rule say collecting sales tax nationwide is a complex and costly process, especially for the smaller sellers.
President Donald Trump has urged the Supreme Court to side with South Dakota, saying in a tweet: “States and Cities throughout our Country are being cheated and treated so badly by online retailers. Very unfair to traditional tax paying stores!”
All bets are off after the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that barred sports gambling in most states. The decision was a clear defeat for the federal government and major professional and college sports leagues that fought to uphold the ban.
Such betting is already legal in Nevada, and New Jersey voters and lawmakers passed a law to legalize sports wagering several years ago. But that state law was opposed by the NCAA, the NFL, MLB, the NBA and the NHL.
“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own.”
Those on the leagues’ side pointed to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, a federal law that prohibited sports betting in all states except the four grandfathered in: Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. Nevada is the only state out of the four that has full-scale sports wagering, according to The Associated Press.
“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not,” the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling said.
More than a dozen states supported New Jersey in the case.
New Jersey could see an uptick in annual revenue to the tune of about $9 billion with sports gambling legalized, the New York Post reported.
In Carpenter v. United States, the Supreme Court has to decide whether the Fourth Amendment allows police to be able to use cell phone records that show the location and movements of the user without a search warrant.
The case involves Timothy Carpenter, who was arrested for being part of a sting of Radio Shack robberies in Michigan and Ohio. He was convicted, in part, after police obtained archived cellphone records showing him near the scene of the crimes.
“Because cellphone location records can reveal countless private details of our lives, police should only be able to access them by getting a warrant based on probable cause,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Carpenter, said in a statement last year. “The time has come for the Supreme Court to make clear that the longstanding protections of the Fourth Amendment apply with undiminished force to these kinds of sensitive digital records.”
The government said it does not need “probable cause” to obtain these records, kept by phone companies, because of a 1986 congressional law known as the Stored Communications Act.
Fox News’ Madeline Farber, Steve Kurtz, Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.