Hot-button issues made for a memorable week

Monday, June 29, 2015

It was a memorable week in the United States, or one that religious and social conservatives would like to forget.

Forgetting will be difficult, however, as Americans adjust to Supreme Court rulings favoring Obamacare -- it will stay in place for now -- and gay marriage -- states cannot prohibit two people of the same sex to marry.

Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush, again saved the Affordable Care Act, allowing federal subsidies for health insurance in states which did not set up their own exchanges. Perhaps he still feels guilty about fumbling President Obama's first oath of office to the point that he administered it twice, just to be sure.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, was the swing vote in the gay marriage decision and wrote the majority opinion.

"They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law," Kennedy wrote of same-sex couples. "The Constitution grants them that right."

It was a bad week for the Stars and Bars, connected via an Internet post to an accused racist mass-murderer.

Walmart and other retailers stopped selling merchandise carrying the Confederate battle flag, decals were being pealed off Dukes of Hazard toy cars and states were debating use of the flag by itself or incorporated into the official state flag.

As the church shootings proved, racism is far from dead; authorities are also investigating a string of church burnings in the south.

Some 140 years after a war fought to end slavery, it's time for racism to end.

It hasn't been all victories for those on the left end of the political spectrum, however.

The Supreme Court ruled today against three death row inmates who said they would be exposed to excruciating pain through the use of the sedative midazolam in their executions.

Executions haven't always gone as planned since states have switched to midazolam after manufacturers in Europe and the United States began refusing to sell them the barbiturates that were traditionally used to produce unconsciousness before more painful executions were injected.

And, of particular importance to Nebraskans, the Supreme Court sided with 20 states challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to regulate emissions without first undertaking a cost-benefit analysis.

The EPA was enforcing the Clean Air Act, which was meant to limit emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants -- which supply a major portion of Nebraska's electricity.

While industry groups said the government was imposing annual costs of $9.6 billion to achieve about $6 million in benefits, the EPA claimed the costs yielded tens of billions of dollars in benefits.

All of these are hot-button issues, with emotions running high on all sides.

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