TIME LGBT

Same-Sex Military Spouses Speak of Unique Obstacles

Frequent moves and fragile parental rights highlighted ahead of Supreme Court arguments

Ashley Broadway-Mack was living in North Carolina in in 2013 when her wife Heather Mack, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, had their child Carly. But same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in North Carolina at the time, meaning Carly, now 2, couldn’t have Broadway-Mack listed as a parent on her birth certificate. Brodway-Mack eventually managed to become a legal parent to Carly after she traveled to South Carolina (where so-called “second-parent” adoptions are legal) and spent thousands of dollars to legally adopt her. Same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina last October.

“We just want to be recognized lawfully like every other military couple and couple in the U.S,” Broadway-Mack told TIME in an interview this week. “We want our marriage to be recognized and our kids to be protected. Men and women in uniform are fighting for our rights and can’t be given the same rights they fight for.”

Stories like Broadway-Mack’s are behind a legal brief that former military officials filed to the Supreme Court ahead of hotly anticipated oral arguments next week about whether states can ban same-sex marriage—arguments many think will end in the high court ruling that marriage is a constitutionally protected right. The brief, reported by the New York Times, argues that the inconsistent state laws on same-sex marriage hurt same-sex married families, and ultimately military readiness. Gay couples in the military move frequently, and have little—if any—choice in deciding where they live. If they move from a state that recognizes their union to one that doesn’t, they are at risk of losing protections and benefits, such as spousal veteran’s benefits distributed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

”Those willing to risk their lives for the security of their country should never be forced to risk losing the protections of marriage and the attendant rights of parenthood,” the brief argues, ”simply because their service obligations require them to move to states that refuse to recognize their marriages.”

Broadway-Mack, whose wife is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and who made headlines in 2013 when she was denied entrance to Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses, said that for gay couples who have children, the issue becomes that much more urgent.

“Before when it was just Heather and me, we were just used to it,” she said. “Now that there are kids involved, it is extremely stressful.”

Roya and Jennifer Cintron, a couple in their early 30s who both serve in the Army, met at Fort Bragg in 2009 when they were en route to their deployments in Afghanistan. They married in New York in 2013. But in February, the couple moved from New Jersey, where their marriage was legally recognized, to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where same-sex marriage is not legal.

Roya gave birth to the couple’s twin girls, who are now almost a year old, in New Jersey. And while both parents’ names are on the girls’ birth certificates, Jennifer, who did not give birth to the girls, now has to apply to legally adopt her daughters. Roya Cintron said she was optimistic about the sea change in policies and perceptions around same-sex marriage that have been sweeping the country (the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law banning openly gay people from serving in the military was repealed in 2010). But she said the patchwork of rules still makes for anxious parents, especially in military families where at least one parent could be deployed away at any moment.

“You just never know where the military going to send you,” she said, “even overseas.”

TIME Supreme Court

New Strategy Against Gay Marriage Divides GOP 2016 Field

US Supreme Court Declines To Hear Appeals On Same-Sex Marriage Cases
Alex Wong—Getty Images People come out from the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Activists want to take on the Supreme Court

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa—The U.S. Supreme Court’s expected decision this spring that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry will, for most, mark the end of a decades-long culture war.

But a small circle of Christian activists aren’t giving up yet — and they are already winning over some Republican presidential candidates to their last-ditch effort. Resting their hopes on an effort to redefine the role of the federal judiciary, the activists’ argument takes on a central tenet of modern American politics: that the Supreme Court has the final say on what is the law of the land.

“There are three branches of government,” Andrew Schlafly, a lawyer and conservative activist, told TIME in an interview. “If the Supreme Court overreaches on an issue, the other two branches are there to check and balance it. The Supreme Court can make that decision, but it can’t enforce its own orders in a state. That’s up to the Legislative and Executive branches.”

It’s an argument with a long history in American politics, Schlafly says. He cites the Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in the infamous Dred Scott case, which found that freed slaves were not American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in court. “The Republican Party said no, we’re not going to go along with that,” Schlafly said. “And the next President was Abraham Lincoln and he did not enforce it.”

Most mainstream constitutional scholars find that argument confounding at best, with criticism from both liberal groups and the conservative Federalist Society.

“It was established a long, long time ago that the federal judiciary has the power to interpret our Constitution and to determine what government actions are constitutional and what are unconstitutional,” said Jeremy Leaming of the progressive American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. “This is pretty basic law-school type of stuff.”

If the Supreme Court decides that same-sex-marriage bans violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, then that’s the end of the story, he added. “States can’t choose and pick which parts of the Constitution to uphold and which not to.”

But regardless of how the argument is received in legal circles, it’s already having a significant effect on the Republican presidential primary, where a number of candidates are working overtime to earn the support of social conservatives who are opposed to same-sex marriage.

Last week in Iowa, where evangelical voters hold particular sway, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee emphatically argued that the high court’s ruling would not be the end of the debate.

“There is no such thing as judicial supremacy,” he said at an event organized by the conservative Family Leader group. He added that “unelected black-robed judges” can overturn laws, but even when they do, “then it goes to the legislature and the Executive Branch.”

After a speech at the same summit, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told TIME that he agrees with Huckabee. “The idea that the courts can just wave their magic wands and not only invalidate laws but pass new ones is a novel concept in the concept of judicial review,” he said. “The courts in my opinion have far exceeded their Article III authority and they need to be pushed back upon by both the Executive and the Congress.”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has argued nine times before the Supreme Court, stopped short of saying that as President he would refuse to enforce a high court decision that found same-sex-marriage bans unconstitutional, but he wrote in a paper provided to the Conservative Republicans of Texas that he would denounce such a ruling “for what it is. Lawless activism, subverting the Constitution.” He also called on conservatives to support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as “limited to one man and one woman” and to consider removing any Supreme Court justice that had “disrespected marriage.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has walked a similar tightrope. “Of course, court rulings must be respected, but it is the duty of the President to defend the Constitution, even when the courts won’t,” he wrote in a statement to Iowa conservative radio host Steve Deace.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul did not say that he would ignore a Supreme Court decision but called for term limits on “out of control, unelected federal judges.”

Other Republican presidential candidates have chosen to take a different route, noting their disagreement with state and federal courts’ pro-gay-marriage decisions without actively trying to undermine them.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said gay marriage was a “settled issue” in his state, while Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said court rulings must be respected. Both dropped appeals in their home states after losing same-sex-marriage cases. “For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” Walker told reporters last fall. “The federal courts have ruled that this decision by this court of appeals decision is the law of the land, and we will be upholding it.”

After a Florida court declared same-sex marriage legal, former governor Jeb Bush said, “We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.” All three governors have faced tough questions from some evangelical voters after conceding the fight.

Schlafly predicted that those candidates would lose support from the conservative Christian base in a Republican primary.

“I think voters are going to be extremely interested in whether a candidate is willing to stand up against overreach by the federal courts on marriage,” he said. “I think it will be a big issue — I think it will be the biggest issue.”

The Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage promises to have particular salience in the first caucus state of Iowa, where a powerful evangelical bloc has long pushed back against the idea of judges defining marriage laws. After the state supreme court ruled in favor of gay marriage in 2009, conservative activists led a successful campaign to deny three justices another term on the bench.

Some conservatives in Iowa are now hoping for a similar backlash against a federal decision. “It’s the Congress that makes the law, it’s the President that executes the law, it’s the people that can amend the Constitution,” said Iowa conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats, who hosted Huckabee, Jindal, Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry. “The courts don’t get to do any of those.”

Last month, Deace, the Iowa radio host, asked a slice of the broad field of potential Republican candidates — Cruz, Huckabee, Walker, Perry, Paul, Rubio, Santorum, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal and Donald Trump — to respond to an essay by John C. Eastman, a conservative professor of law, in which he made the case for ignoring a Supreme Court decision that found same-sex-marriage bans unconstitutional.

Perry, Trump and Jindal did not respond to Deace’s query. Jindal told TIME that he would wait for the court’s decision before weighing in on potential next steps.

Constitutional lawyers on both sides of the ideological divide have pushed back against these arguments. “It’s just fantastical to point to Dred Scott and the Civil War in reference to these cases,” said Leaming of the American Constitution Society. “It’s fantastical and it’s also quite frankly irresponsible.” But for some, at least, it may be good politics.

Read next: Transcript: Read Full Text of Sen. Marco Rubio’s Campaign Launch

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TIME Supreme Court

The Robert Menendez Corruption Charges Undermine the Supreme Court

Ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez listens to testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington on March 11, 2015.
Mark Wilson–Getty Images Ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez listens to testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington on March 11, 2015.

The Supreme Court said super PACs aren't prone to corruption. Prosecutors are alleging otherwise in a case against Sen. Robert Menendez.

Correction appended, April 2

In his 2010 State of the Union, President Obama famously criticized the Supreme Court’s logic on a campaign finance decision even as several justices sat in the audience.

Now, prosecutors at the U.S. Justice Department have found an even better way to make the case.

In their indictment of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, prosecutors have called foul on one of the central arguments for the court’s interpretation of campaign finance law in the Citizens United decision.

The indictment alleges that Florida opthamologist Solomon Melgen corruptly showered Menedez with gifts intended to influence official acts, from procuring visas for his foreign girlfriends to intervening in a dispute over Medicare billing. Among those things of value, according to prosecutors, was $600,000 in donations from Melgen’s company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, earmarked to help Menedez’s reelection through a super PAC called Majority PAC.

Those donations came two years after Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a majority of the court in Citizens United v. FEC, ruled that such contributions to outside groups not directly controlled by candidates presented no risk of corruption or the appearance of corruption.

“This Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” Kennedy wrote. “That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.”

This argument was central to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow outside groups to collect and spend unlimited amounts of money to explicitly call for the election and defeat of a candidate for federal office. Since the money technically went to an organization not controlled by the candidate, the court reasoned, there was no sufficient government interest to stop it.

The indictment of Menendez, however, reveals in great detail the extent to which “independent” groups like Majority PAC have found ways to operate in close coordination with the candidate. And if Menendez is convicted, the case will prove that corruption can still be facilitated through these outside groups.

“The Citizens United court majority was obviously wrong in 2010 when it declared that independent expenditures can’t corrupt,” says Paul Ryan, an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center, who has long been critical of the decision. “Now we have concrete alleged evidence of how independent expenditures do corrupt.”

The indictment alleges that Melgen gave the money to support Menendez in two checks of $300,000. The first check was given on June 1, 2012, the very day when Melgen served on the host committee of Menendez’s annual fundraising event in New Jersey. Melgen allegedly gave the check to “a close personal friend” of the Senator at the fundraiser, who sent the check by FedEx to a person working to raise money for Majority PAC with a note saying “earmarked for New Jersey.” (That clearly meant Menendez. Majority PAC focused its spending on Democratic Senate races, and he was the only Democratic Senate candidate that year from New Jersey.)

Melgen issued a second check on October 12, 2012, less than a month before the election, prosecutors allege. An email from a fundraiser that accompanied the second check also read “earmarked for New Jersey.”

About six days after Melgen issued the first check, Menendez allegedly advocated on Melgen’s behalf in a Medicare billing dispute with the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. About a month later, Menendez sought a meeting with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to discuss Melgen’s concerns.

“During Menendez’s meeting with the Secretary of HHS, Menendez advocated on behalf of Melgen’s position in his Medicare billing dispute, focusing on Melgen’s specific case and asserting that Melgen was being treated unfairly,” the indictment reads. “The Secretary of HHS disagreed with Menendez’s position.”

After Melgen gave the second $300,000 check, Melgen separately emailed Menendez and a fundraiser for Senate Majority PAC a document asking again for Health and Human Services to intervene on his behalf in the Medicare billing dispute, the indictment claims. The fundraiser for the Senate Majority PAC wrote back by email that he would pass the information on to another senator, identified in the legal documents as Senator 3. “Dear Sal, I’m going to see him on Tuesday. I will give this to him directly. Is that ok?”

Menendez has maintained this innocence, and says he plans to fight the charges.

Correction: This post initially misidentified the senator that a fundraiser for Senate Majority PAC promised to communicate with on Melgen’s behalf.

Read next: New Jersey Senator Faces Corruption Charges

TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Protecting Pregnant Women in the Workplace

A woman who challenged UPS policy on pregnant workers can take her case back to court

Companies that provide special treatment for a large percentage of their injured workers should do the same for pregnant women, the Supreme Court decided on Wednesday.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of former UPS employee Peggy Young, who challenged a company policy that did not allow her to take on lighter duties during her pregnancy, even though the company provided alternative work to some employees with injuries or other circumstances that prevented them from doing their regular jobs.

Wednesday’s ruling blocked an earlier decision saying UPS was justified in not accommodating Young and now sends the case back to a lower court, where her original lawsuit can be revived. Young is seeking back pay and benefits for the time she went without work during her pregnancy. (She’s since found work elsewhere.)

In the court’s majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer, said there is “genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young’s.”

Breyer was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elana Kagan and Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion. Justice Samuel Alito also joined, but wrote his own opinion.

When Young became pregnant in 2006, doctors advised her to take on a lighter workload during her pregnancy. UPS refused, saying its policy was to treat pregnant women as if they were injured outside the workplace, which did not entitle them to special accommodations. As a result, Young had to take unpaid leave.

Young challenged this decision, saying it was unfair of UPS to not make accommodations for pregnant workers (a policy that has since changed) while offering alternative duties to those who were injured on the job.

Breyer wrote that the lower court must consider why UPS made accommodations for other workers but did not do the same for pregnant women. “Why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?” Breyer asked.

The Court didn’t go so far as to say that pregnant workers should be treated more favorably than others, just that pregnant workers should be given the same accommodations offered to others. Still, Young’s lawyers called the decision a “big win for women in the workplace.”

“The Court recognized that employers can’t put pregnancy in a class by itself. The Court recognized that a ruling for UPS would thwart Congress’s intent,” said Sam Bagenstos, who argued Young’s case before the Supreme Court last December.

“It made clear that employers may not refuse to accommodate pregnant workers based on considerations of cost or convenience when they accommodate other workers,” he said in a statement.

On a press call Wednesday, Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center said the Court’s ruling “reaffirmed that the pregnancy discrimination act means what it says.”

“It is illegal sex discrimination,” she said.

UPS praised the Supreme Court’s ruling as well.

“UPS is pleased that the Supreme Court rejected the argument that UPS’s pregnancy-neutral policy was inherently discriminatory,” the company said in a statement, according to reports. “Instead, the Supreme Court adopted a new standard for evaluating pregnancy discrimination claims without ruling for either party and sent the case back to the lower courts for further consideration.”

Young’s case comes as many states have and are considering expanded protections for pregnant workers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also issued updated guidance on how employers can treat pregnant employees under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act last July.

TIME India

India Strikes Down Controversial Law Banning ‘Offensive’ Online Content

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Ramesh Lalwani—Getty Images/Moment Open Supreme Court of India

The law, often called draconian, made online content deemed "grossly offensive" punishable by a jail term of up to three years

In a landmark ruling, India’s apex court struck down a law that allowed the government to jail citizens for up to three years for posting “offensive” content on the Internet.

The contentious law, known as section 66A under the 2009 amendment to India’s Information Technology Act, was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

“Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is struck down in its entirety being violative of Article 19 (1) (a) and not saved under Article 19 (2),” the court said in its judgment, referring to the portion of the Indian constitution that guarantees every citizen the right to free speech and expression.

The court’s decision, in response to a 2012 petition from law student Shreya Singhal, caps a three-year long legal battle and was met with jubilation among proponents of free speech.

“The Internet is so far-reaching and so many people use it that it is very important for us to protect this right today, now,” Singhal told AFP on Tuesday after describing the ruling as a “big victory.”

Successive governments in India have grappled with issues of online censorship and free speech, and Singhal’s petition came after a slew of arrests related to 66A in 2012 — including two young women who criticized the shutdown of India’s financial capital Mumbai over the death of a local politician. Earlier, the New York Times had reported that then telecommunications minister Kapil Sibal had asked websites like Facebook, Google and Yahoo to screen objectionable content and prevent it from being published.

The new government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had its fair share of censorship battles, including a recent ban on a controversial British documentary about the infamous 2012 New Delhi rape case. The government also justified section 66A in February, calling greater Internet regulation necessary even after admitting the law was “draconian.”

However, the Supreme Court judges said that “assurances of the government that it will not be misused” was not enough to justify the law, which uses terms like “grossly offensive” and “causing annoyance, inconvenience … enmity, hatred or ill will,” that they deemed too vague and easy to be misconstrued.

The court upheld section 69A of the act, however, which allows the government to block online content, and section 79(3) which makes intermediaries such as YouTube or Facebook liable for not complying with government demands for censorship of content.

TIME Supreme Court

More Than 300 Republicans Call on Supreme Court to Recognize Gay Marriage Nationally

Signers include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker

More than 300 veteran Republican lawmakers, operatives and consultants have filed a friend of the court brief at the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage late Thursday.

The amicus brief, organized by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, was filed for the four same-sex marriage cases the Court will hear on April 28 that could legalize the unions nationwide. In 2013, Mehlman marshaled a similar effort for the case that overturned California’s Proposition 8, which had banned same-sex marriage in the state.

Among the signatories are 23 current and former Republicans members of the House of Representatives and Senate and seven current and former Governors. Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk have signed onto the brief, as has Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Other notables include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and billionaire GOP mega-donor David Koch.

The 2013 brief included 131 signatures, featured many former top aides to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, including his general counsel and two senior advisors. The list has now grown to 303 signatories.

In an interview with TIME, Mehlman pointed to the growing national consensus and within the GOP on the issue. “There’s been an increase since the last time in public support for marriage equality across all ideological, racial, and political groups,” he said.

The brief makes a conservative case for the court to strike down same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, arguing they are “inconsistent with amici’s understanding of the properly limited role of government.”

“Although amici hold a broad spectrum of socially and politically conservative, moderate, and libertarian views, amici share the view that laws that bar same-sex couples from the institution of civil marriage, with all its attendant profoundly important rights and responsibilities, are inconsistent with the United States Constitution’s dual promises of equal protection and due process,” the brief states.

Some aides to Republican presidential candidates are hoping that if the Court’s rules in favor of the unions it will provide cover for their bosses, who are hoping to avoid talking about the issue. After the party’s 2012 electoral defeat, its autopsy found that gay rights issues are a gateway subject not just for LGBT voters, but also for young voters of all stripes. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the Growth and Opportunity Project report stated.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie both dropped opposition to same-sex unions in their state after court rulings forced their hand, but they remain personally opposed. After marriages began in his state in January, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called for respect from all sides. “I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty,” he said.

More conservative Republicans may seek to cater to Iowa and South Carolina’s large evangelical primary blocks in order to attract votes, setting the stage for potential clashes. But the political ground is shifting. According to an NBC/Marist survey last month, roughly half of likely GOP caucus and primary voters in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire find opposition to same-sex marriage “mostly” or “totally” unacceptable.

Mehlman said he was not concerned that the Court’s ruling could prompt a backlash among conservative voters that might alienate moderates.

“Republicans traditionally have great respect for court decisions, particularly the Supreme Court,” he said. And pointing to rapid shifts in public opinion in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, he predicted Republicans wouldn’t drum up the base against the Court should it overturn the marriage bans. “The data shows that public acceptance increases very quickly, and very significantly.”

The full list of Amici:

The full brief:

Read next: Supreme Court Sets Date For Same-Sex Marriage Arguments

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TIME Supreme Court

Obamacare Arguments Center on Chief Justice

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally in Washington on March 4, 2015.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally in Washington on March 4, 2015.

John Roberts saved the law in 2012, but he played his cards close to the vest Wednesday

Chief Justice John Roberts once again holds the fate of Obamacare in his hands.

The conservative Supreme Court Justice who provided the crucial vote to save the Affordable Care Act in 2012 was at the center of many of the arguments Wednesday on another legal challenge to the law. But like the eye of a hurricane, he remained quiet.

Roberts made only two substantive remarks during the hour and a half of oral arguments on King v. Burwell. One was to casually dismiss a line of argument pursued by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had peppered an attorney behind the lawsuit with questions over whether the plaintiffs had the standing to sue. The other was to note that a future President — presumably a Republican — could reverse the Obama Administration’s readings of the law.

But Roberts was the unspoken audience for an argument made by two other Justices because of his reasoning in the last Obamacare challenge. In that decision, he argued that Congress could not force states to expand Medicaid by threatening them financially — something he compared to putting “a gun to the head.”

This time around, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor and conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that if Congress made health-insurance subsidies dependent on whether a state set up its own exchange — the argument that conservative lawyers were making — that would be similarly improper coercion.

“If we read it the way you’re saying, then we’re going to read the statute as intruding on the federal-state relationship,” Sotomayor told a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “Because then the states are going to be coerced into establishing their own exchanges.”

Kennedy was even more blunt. “If your argument is accepted, the states are being told either create your own exchange, or we’ll send your insurance market into a death spiral,” he said. “The cost of insurance will be sky­ high, but this is not coercion. It seems to me that … there’s a serious constitutional problem if we adopt your argument.”

Two other conservatives, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, questioned whether the dire warnings that the federal government has presented as potential consequences of a decision really would come true.

“You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue?” Scalia asked. “Congress adjusts, enacts a statute that takes care of the problem. It happens all the time.”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli then earned a laugh when he responded, “Well, this Congress…”

TIME Supreme Court

4 Ways the Supreme Court Could Rule on Obamacare

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally in Washington on March 4, 2015.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally in Washington on March 4, 2015.

The health care law is once again before the high court

When the Supreme Court last considered the Affordable Care Act, the argument was easy to follow: Does the federal government have the power to force people to buy health insurance?

The question this time is a lot more complicated.

As the justices discussed a single line in the law Wednesday, they were debating issues of administrative law precedent, congressional intent and interpretation of statutory language. But the bottom line is still the same. If the court’s majority rules a certain way, the law would collapse, causing as many as eight million people to lose their health insurance.

The case centers on whether states need to set up their own health insurance exchanges under the law for their residents to qualify for subsidies that make it affordable.

Here’s a quick look at four ways the court could rule.

The Liberal Hail Mary

The ruling: The majority finds that the people bringing the lawsuit don’t have the standing to sue and throws out the case without ruling on the merits.

The argument: One plaintiff listed her address as a motel. The others might qualify for veterans health care or Medicare, which would make their claims of being hurt by the law a moot point.

Why they would do it: Chief Justice John Roberts might agree with the liberal justices as a face-saving way to make the case go away. He was quiet during oral arguments Wednesday.

Why they wouldn’t do it: Even if three of the four plaintiffs don’t have standing, if the fourth did, the case could move forward. It’s a longshot.

The Ironic Precedent

The ruling: The majority finds that forcing states to create their own health insurance exchanges at the risk of their residents losing subsidies is improper coercion.

The argument: Without the subsidies, a state’s health insurance market would fall into a “death spiral.” That means the law would effectively force states to build one.

Why they would do it: In its last decision, the court overturned a part of the law forcing states to expand Medicaid, saying it was coercive. Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed open to that logic again.

Why they wouldn’t do it: It’s a constitutional argument, which is a bigger deal than for the justices to simply interpret the law’s wording.

The ‘Not Our Problem’

The ruling: The majority finds that the law is poorly written but needs to be interpreted strictly, essentially saying the court’s hands are tied.

The argument: Congress didn’t do its job well when it passed the final version of the bill, but it’s not up to the White House — or the court, for that matter — to fix it.

Why they would do it: The Supreme Court regularly throws laws back to Congress to fix. They’ve done it recently it with a fair pay law, the Voting Rights Act and campaign finance law.

Why they wouldn’t do it: Precedent. In the most-cited administrative law case in history, the Supreme Court found that the White House should have leeway to interpret poorly worded laws.

The Conservative Hail Mary

The ruling: The majority finds that Congress intended for a state’s residents to be denied subsidies if the state didn’t set up its own insurance exchange.

The argument: An MIT economist who helped design the law once said that in an academic lecture that has since gone viral in conservative circles.

Why they would do it: The lawsuit’s supporters have argued that Democrats in Congress intended this all along. Going along with that argument would avoid the problem of legal precedent.

Why they wouldn’t do it: There’s lots of evidence, such as interviews with the staffers who actually wrote the law, that Congress didn’t intend this. It’s a longshot.

TIME Supreme Court

The 4 Words That Could Cause 8 Million to Lose Their Insurance

Marketplace guide Stephanie Cantres works on the Healthcare.gov federal enrollment website to help a resident sign up for a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act at a Westside Family Healthcare center enrollment event in Bear, Delaware, on March 27, 2014.
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Marketplace guide Stephanie Cantres works on the Healthcare.gov federal enrollment website to help a resident sign up for a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act at a Westside Family Healthcare center enrollment event in Bear, Delaware, on March 27, 2014.

Oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell will be delivered on Wednesday

Nearly eight million Americans could lose their health insurance depending on how the Supreme Court interprets four words in the Affordable Care Act.

At the nation’s highest court on Wednesday, justices will hear arguments in the case of King v. Burwell, the latest challenge to President Obama’s signature health care law and one that could potentially leave it gutted from an unexpected direction.

The 2010 law already survived an earlier Supreme Court challenge on the constitutionality of its requirement that most Americans buy health insurance. But the current case centers on whether, as many Republicans argue, one line in the law was intended to restrict subsidies to people who bought insurance through a state exchange or whether, as Democrats contend, that line was a simple oversight in the law’s drafting.

The consequences are potentially huge. Thirty-four states rely on the federal government to run their exchange, meaning that their residents would lose subsidies, making insurance unaffordable and causing rates to rise for those who remained insured. One study by the Rand Corp. found that eight million people would lose their insurance in those states if the court rules against the Obama Administration.

The Administration contends that the phrase is a “term of art,” and says that other parts of the law show that there is no distinction between federal and state run exchanges.

“If you look at the law, if you look at the testimony of those who were involved in the law, including some of the opponents of the law, the understanding was that people who joined the federal exchange were going to be able to access tax credits,” President Obama said in an interview with Reuters. “And there’s in our view not a plausible legal basis for striking it down.”

The Obama Administration has stated it has no backup plan ready if the Supreme Court rules against it. “If they rule against us, we’ll have to take a look at what our options are,” Obama said recently. “But I’m not going to anticipate that. I’m not going to anticipate bad law.”

Republicans on the other hand, are eager to show they have a Plan B. In the past two days, lawmakers from the House and the Senate have said they’re in the process of working on alternatives to the law, should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the plaintiffs. Reps. Paul Ryan, John Kline and Fred Upton wrote in the Wall Street Journal, they’re proposing an “off-ramp out of Obamacare,” that would allow states to opt-out of insurance mandates and offer options for those who can’t otherwise insurance. Sens. Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander and John Barrasso wrote in the Washington Post, they too would help those who can’t afford coverage during a “transitional period” and let states create alternative marketplaces.

Grace Marie Turner, the president of the health-policy organization the Galen Institute, says though Congressional lawmakers are in only in the process of shaping legislation, there’s real opportunity.

“This case provides an accelerator,” Turner tells TIME. “This could provide a real opportunity to begin the process of fixing the law.”

Read next: Here’s the Tough Choice the Uninsured Have to Make Now

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Top Lawyers Would Most Like to Lunch Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Richard Tucker Music Foundation's 38th Annual Gala
Monica Schipper—Getty Images Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of Supreme Court of the United States, attends Richard Tucker Music Foundation's 38th annual gala at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center on November 17, 2013 in New York City.

RBG named as the Supreme Court Justice they'd most like to break bread with

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been voted #1 Supreme Court lunch date by hungry American lawyers, according to a new survey.

Ginsburg came out on top as the most popular potential lunch date, followed by Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor, presumably because they’re kind of in Ginsburg’s posse. Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Elena Kagan were middle-of-the-pack, like that kid you kind of know from Chemistry class who lets you copy his notes. Samuel Alito, Jr was the least popular pick, not unlike that poor kid who eats his lunch from a tray in a bathroom stall.

The survey of almost 100 leading lawyers was conducted by Super Lawyers, part of Thompson Reuters, and the organizer noted that many lawyers actually picked a Justice with whom they don’t necessarily agree. “Lawyers being lawyers, they wanted to argue, I guess,” said Super Lawyers Editor-in-Chief Erik Lundegaard in a statement. “So a choice for lunch date, like a retweet, isn’t necessarily an endorsement.”

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