Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

How will the Supreme Court decide the Culture Wars?

By John Avlon, CNN Contributor
updated 12:31 PM EDT, Sat June 22, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeffrey Toobin joins "Big Three" to discuss the week ahead for the Supreme Court
  • Dean Obeidallah, John Avlon, Margaret Hoover weigh in on how the justices will rule
  • Expect rulings on gay rights and marriage, the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action

Editor's note: John Avlon, a CNN contributor and senior political columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, is the author of "Independent Nation" and "Wingnuts." He won the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' award for best online column in 2012.

(CNN) -- This week on the "Big Three" prodcast we talked with our special guest, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, about the momentous upcoming week for the Supreme Court.

With 11 decisions left and just one week in the month of June to complete their rulings, the Supreme Court has held the most anticipated cases until the bitter end. Among these are rulings on gay rights, same sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action. This is the moment where the Supreme Court weighs in on the Culture Wars. Intense debate and some inevitable outrage seem sure to follow.

Toobin, author of "The Nine and the Oath" as well as a writer for The New Yorker, points out that Chief Justice John Roberts seems focused on building a more colorblind society as a core part of his court legacy. That means decisions regarding affirmative action and the special status of southern states in the Voting Rights Act could move in directions that would upset liberals and African-Americans in particular.

But Toobin cautions against buying into knee-jerk characterizations and politicizations of complex decisions. In particular, he points out that the Voting Rights Act will not be repealed or fundamentally gutted if conservative justices carry the day in the case brought by Shelby County, Alabama, arguing essentially that the requirements relevant to the 1960s desegregation no long apply.

On the court's return to the question of affirmative action, one Roberts quote from 2007 looms large over the decision: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Dean Obeidallah
John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Dean Obeidallah

Perhaps the preeminent civil rights fight of our time is the gay rights movement, and two cases on this front promise to capture the most attention. The first is regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in the 1990s. The second concerns the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriages at the ballot box. Many close court observers believe that DOMA will be repealed while Prop 8 might be punted on standing.

This means that Dean's hope for a broad Loving v. Virginia type decision -- which outlawed state laws banning interracial marriage in the late 1960s -- might be thwarted for the time being. Margaret has been actively following this court case from its inception in California, where legendary conservative jurist Ted OIson banded with legendary liberal lawyer David Boies to argue that marriage is a basic civil right for all Americans.

This kind of bipartisan partnership based on deep principles rather than politics is a model for how to end the Culture Wars, whatever the results of this specific Supreme Court decision.

Whatever your personal politics, listen to Toobin jam with us on the "Big Three" as a curtain-raiser for the pivotal week ahead. These cases will affect all Americans, and by listening to this podcast you'll get up to speed, ready to debate the issues and analyze the landmark decisions delivered by the highest court in the land.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
updated 3:00 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
John Sutter says the right is often stereotyped on climate change. But with 97% of climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, we all have to get together on this.
updated 8:57 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Andrew Liepman and Philip Mudd: When we declare that we will defeat ISIS, what do we exactly mean?
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Thailand sex trafficking
Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar global industry. To beat it, we need to change mindsets, Cindy McCain says.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
The leaders of the GOP conferences say a Republican-led Senate could help solve America's problems.
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Nicholas Syrett says Wesleyan University's decision to make fraternities admit women will help curb rape culture.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Mike Downey says New Yorkers may be overdoing it, but baseball will really miss Derek Jeter
updated 8:32 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Quick: Which U.S. president has authorized wars of various kinds in seven Muslim countries?
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Women's issues should be considered front and center when assessing a society's path, says Zainab Salbi
updated 2:05 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
A catastrophe not making headlines like Ebola and ISIS: the astounding rate of child poverty in the world's richest country.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT