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- 1+ 59- 23vRoe v. Wade remains among the U.S. Supreme Court's most highly controversial decisions. In 1973, the High Court ruled that a woman who chooses to have an abortion (in the first trimester) is within her constitutional rights to do so. This ruling essentially legalized first trimester abortion - striking down individual state laws restricting it.
- 2+ 46- 21vThe Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision was certainly controversial. This 1954 ruling by the High Court essentially determined that it is unconstitutional for states to establish separate schools for blacks and whites. The ruling, which said that race-based segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement, as it abolished segregation in schools (though not elsewhere).
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Bush v. GorevThis landmark ruling essentially determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential race. The U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision reversed an earlier Florida Supreme Court decision and ended a statewide recount of ballots. The justices' ruling essentially awarded Florida's 25 electoral votes to George W. Bush, saying that allowing the recount to continue would violate the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
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Windsor v. United StatesJune 26, 2013--The Supreme Court found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. The federal government's refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages has imposed a "stigma," enshrined a "separate status" into law and "humiliates" a group of people -- and that is unconstitutional, concluded Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority of Supreme Court justices on Wednesday in their historic decision striking down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The vote Wednesday was 5-4.
With DOMA as the law of the land, married gay and lesbian couples were unable to receive more than 1,000 federal benefits that heterosexual couples were able to receive. Kennedy, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment.
- 5+ 20- 14vIn 1803, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling that basically established the concept of "judicial review." The High Court ruled in favor of William Marbury. He was appointed by outgoing president John Adams as a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. When Thomas Jefferson became president, he ordered his secretary of state, James Madison, not to allow it. With this ruling, the Supreme Court forever changed the role (and power) of the court and, essentially, the way the U.S government operates.
- 6+ 26- 21The Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling in 1896 essentially held that "separate but equal" was okay, establishing the idea that segregation was constitutional. States could, legally, offer separate facilities (in this case, train seats), to blacks and whites, provided that the facilities were identical. This post-Reconstruction challenge to segregation was only the beginning.
- 7+ 21- 202003's Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision was definitely controversial. In the case, the High Court ruled that the state of Texas' anti-sodomy law, prohibiting sex acts between persons of the same gender, was unconstitutional. In a nutshell, the justices' decision said that intimate sexual conduct between consenting adults, same sex or not, was protected under the Fourteenth Amendment.
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Citizens United vs. Federal Election CommissionvCan the government regulate political speech? This cornerstone First Amendment principle was at the center of the Supreme Court's January 2010 decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. Ultimately, the High Court ruled that the U.S. government cannot ban any political spending by corporations (or unions) in candidate elections, including money for campaign ads that either support, or criticize, certain candidates. Some argued that not restricting such spending might compromise democracy. President Barack Obama was a sharp critic of the decision, saying that the ruling "opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy."
This decision reversed some key past rulings concerning campaign finance regulation - and will affect many, many f*ture political campaigns.
- 9+ 17- 17vThe U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 1857 in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case essentially established that all African-Americans, whether slaves or free, do not have Constitutional rights. Slave Dred Scott had sued, claiming he should be freed because the family he served had taken him to the free state of Illinois.
- 10+ 17- 20The U.S. Supreme Court's 1962 ruling in the landmark Engel v. Vitale case established the basis for restricting prayer in public schools. Parents of students in New Hyde Park, New York, filed suit claiming that the voluntary prayer in the school system violated the First Amendment. The High Court ruled that the prayer was an unconstitutional state establishment of religion and thus, a violation of First Amendment rights.
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Snyder v. PhelpsvIn October of 2010, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Snyder v. Phelps case. This case concerned the issue of public protests at funerals. Albert Snyder, the father of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, filed suit against the Westboro Baptist Church, led by pastor Fred Phelps. Snyder's son Matthew was killed in Iraq. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed at the young Marine's funeral, holding signs that said, among other things, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "Thank God for 9/11." Snyder filed a lawsuit. In March of 2011, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, upholding the group's rights to picket, and saying that the First Amendment (free speech) protects protesters in this case, because Westboro's picket signs dealt with "matters of public import." Westboro continues to picket at military funerals and other high-profile funerals today.