Big business on winning side in U.S. top court's major rulings

Sat Jun 27, 2015 9:00am EDT
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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON, June 27 (Reuters) - Big business was on the winning side in the U.S. Supreme Court's two major cases of the year, with hundreds of employers pushing hard in favor of gay marriage and the healthcare industry backing the insurance subsidies available under Obamacare.

The court on Thursday rejected a conservative challenge to President Barack Obama's healthcare law on a 6-3 vote and, a day later, ruled 5-4 that gay marriage should be legal nationwide.

Both cases were largely seen through the lens of national ideological wars, with liberals backing gay marriage and Obamacare and conservatives opposing them. But the cases could also be seen as pro-business rulings by a court with a reputation as friendly to corporate interests under Chief Justice John Roberts.

Unlike in other contexts, such as a series of cases in which the court cut back on class-action lawsuits, business interests aligned themselves with liberal activists for these cases.

"This Supreme Court is unquestionably responsive to the views of corporate America. Here, in both the healthcare and marriage cases, those views aligned with a progressive outcome," said Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a left-leaning legal activist group.

The two major rulings mask the fact that the business-related rulings this year, with one major environmental case due to come on the court's last day on Monday, have been a mixed bag for corporate interests.

In one of the biggest business cases, the court on Thursday dealt a blow to lenders and insurers by upholding a legal theory that allows for lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act based on discriminatory impact even when there is no evidence of intentional discrimination.

The court did hand wins to business interests in a series of lower-profile rulings, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's biggest business lobby, on the winning side in 12 of 20 cases in which it filed friend-of-the-court briefs. The Chamber has a policy not to get involved in social issues and did not file briefs on the gay marriage and Obamacare cases.   Continued...