The U.S. Supreme Court will confront social issues that have divided the nation for decades in a new term that may produce its first ruling on gay marriage and a rollback of protections for racial minorities.
The justices take the bench today for the first time since June 28, when they upheld President Barack Obama’s sweeping health-care law. That 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the four Democratic-appointed justices in the majority, proved so contentious that it led to rare leaks about the court’s internal deliberations.
The health-care debate now gives way to battles over civil rights, with cases that offer Roberts a chance to reclaim his conservative mantle. The court will consider university affirmative action, almost certainly will take on at least one gay-marriage case, and may determine the fate of the landmark Voting Rights Act. The justices hear arguments today on whether corporations can be held liable for human-rights abuses abroad.