Two Supreme Court opinions involving the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage have the net effect of uniting the states to act as one country. The tenth amendment to the constitution gives a fair amount of power to the states to enact laws that can directly conflict or undermine national policy set by the federal government. The Supreme Court’s opinion on the ACA prevented furthering splintering of our nation while the ruling on same-sex marriage helps bring all the states into uniformity on the issue.
Individual rights versus state’s rights
A fine thread running between the ACA and gay marriage Supreme Court cases is that constitutional rights, liberties and freedoms are never diminished or enhanced based on which state a citizen lives in. In other words, regardless of which state a person or family calls their home, they are entitled to the same benefits from the federal government along with the constitutional guarantees. Constitutionally guaranteed free speech or freedom of religion doesn’t change because a person moves from California to Texas. Rights and freedoms are inalienable and can’t be altered from state to state.
Equal in One, Equal in All
States can’t deny federal benefits
Yet, that is the goal of some states; to restrict federal benefits or rights based on a person’s income or sexual identity. With the ACA (King v Burwell) opponents seized on the fact that the law’s language specifies that tax credits could only be awarded by a state’s exchange. Since the federal government was handling the insurance exchange for 36 states who decided not to establish a Marketplace, the hope was that the Supreme Court would find that arrangement in violation of the law.
ACA premium tax credits are federal benefits
The Supreme Court agreed with the Obama Administration that the federal exchange could act as a state exchange for the purpose of allocating the Advance Premium Tax Credits. This is important because the ACA is a federal program. The tax credits are reconciled on a tax payer’s federal tax return, not a state tax return. The taxes to fund the ACA are on a nationwide basis and are not state specific. In short, the ACA was meant as a federal program to benefit all citizens and lawful residents.
States abdicated their responsibility
It would have been absurd to allow federal tax payers to be denied federal tax credits because they lived in a state that abdicated their responsibility to establish an exchange to the federal government. The concept of individual state exchanges were to allow the states the ability to craft insurance Marketplaces unique to their state and not have as much federal involvement in the first place. The intent of the law was to make health insurance affordable regardless of where the family lived. Tax payers should not be punished because their state elected officials couldn’t get their act together and establish an exchange.
Your residence doesn’t change your sexual orientation
While the Supreme Court opinion on the ACA prevented denial of federal benefits, their ruling that same-sex marriage is a fundamental liberty repairs the inequalities created by states that limited marriage to heterosexual couples. The unique institution of marriage as a multi-faceted contract between two people and recognized by civil government dictates that a standard definition must be established. A marriage is no less worthy in one state over another. A person’s sexual identity doesn’t change just because they are in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage. It was necessary for the Supreme Court to make same-sex marriage equivalent to opposite-sex marriage throughout the United States.
We must remain united
Just as the institution of slavery allowed by certain states in the union could not be tolerated, neither should the denial of federal tax benefits or recognition of a couple’s marriage. We are a United States which means it is paramount that an individual’s rights and liberties are never diminished by a state law. Contrived and arbitrary state lines should never be used to deny someone’s constitutional rights and benefits. The Supreme Court opinions on the ACA and gay marriage remind us all that we are the United States of America not a collection of individual countries who can ignore federal laws they don’t like.
See also: Gridlock starts with 50 divided states
Supreme Court Opinions on the ACA and same-sex marriage