As the Supreme Court capped off its summer session this week by delivering key decisions on some of the country’s most highly charged political issues, court experts are honing in on two justices and their influence.
“It’s the Roberts Court. He’s the CEO and Anthony Kennedy is the President,” said Pete Williams, NBC’s Justice Correspondent referring to the high court’s Chief Justice John Roberts and its influential swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Williams joined Tom Goldstein, another veteran Court watcher and the publisher of SCOTUSblog.com, for PRESS Pass to unpack this week‘s historic Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, voting rights and affirmative action. Both agree the rulings came as no surprise given the make-up of the Court and its previous decisions.
“Four years ago the Supreme Court came very close to striking down the voting rights act and wrote a message to Congress saying we think this thing is out of whack. The data is old and you’re in big trouble of losing this if you don’t change it,” Williams said. “Congress does nothing so, it’s no surprise the Supreme Court struck it down.“
On gay marriage, he says Justice Anthony Kennedy’s reservations about treating gay people differently in two previous gay rights rulings are reflected in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.
But Goldstein says despite the decision on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, the Court may be reluctant to fully answer the question of whether gays and lesbians have a right to marry and may leave it to the states.
“They had the opportunity to review the decision of the Court of Appeals invalidating Proposition 8, and decide the big question,” he said, asking, “Do same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry?”
According to Goldstein, the Supreme Court “found a way out” and did not have to “decide that question.”
Watch our entire PRESS Pass interview with Tom Goldstein and Pete Williams for more analysis including whether or not President Obama may have another crack on reshaping the court.