You have 4 summaries left

Pod Save America

Strict Scrutiny on the Supreme Court’s Student Debt Relief and Gay Rights Decisions

Fri Jun 30 2023
Supreme CourtAffirmative ActionStudent Loan ReliefDiscriminationReligious FreedomInclusivityStandingMajor Questions DoctrineStudent Loans


The episode covers recent Supreme Court decisions, including the striking down of affirmative action, halting of President Biden's student loan relief plan, and allowing businesses to refuse services for same-sex marriage. Analysis of Justice Gorsuch's opinion in the Jack Phillips case is provided, along with dissenting opinions from Justice Sotomayor. The impact of these decisions on discrimination, standing, and student loan relief is explored. The episode also discusses a lawsuit involving Mohela and the consequences of the Supreme Court decision on student loans.


Supreme Court decisions have significant implications for civil rights and discrimination laws.

The recent decisions by the Supreme Court highlight the ongoing debate over affirmative action, LGBTQ+ rights, and religious freedom. These rulings have the potential to shape future legal battles and impact marginalized communities.

Justice Gorsuch's libertarian views raise concerns about the balance between individual rights and anti-discrimination laws.

Gorsuch's opinions in the Jack Phillips case reveal his belief in individual prosecution of personal views and his skepticism towards expanding non-discrimination provisions. This raises questions about the limits of religious freedom and the potential consequences for protected groups.

Dissenting opinions emphasize the importance of inclusivity and the potential harm caused by discrimination.

Justice Sotomayor's dissent highlights the historical significance of public accommodations laws in combating discrimination. The dissenting opinions argue that recognizing a constitutional right to refuse service sends a harmful message and allows businesses to openly discriminate against marginalized groups.

The Supreme Court's decisions on standing and major questions doctrine have far-reaching implications.

The court's rulings on standing and the major questions doctrine impact the ability of individuals and states to challenge discriminatory practices. These decisions raise concerns about access to justice and the role of the judiciary in shaping public policy.

The Supreme Court decision on student loan relief has significant consequences for borrowers.

The court's decision to end a program that would have provided relief for student borrowers disproportionately affects lower-income individuals, women, and communities of color. This decision highlights the challenges in addressing student loan debt and the need for comprehensive reform.


  1. Supreme Court Decisions
  2. Analysis of Gorsuch's Opinion
  3. Implications of Jack Phillips Case
  4. Dissenting Opinion by Justice Sotomayor
  5. Analysis of Court Decisions on Standing
  6. Lawsuit Involving Mohela
  7. Supreme Court Decision on Student Loan Relief
  8. Impact of Supreme Court Decision on Student Loans

Supreme Court Decisions

00:00 - 07:20

  • The Supreme Court struck down affirmative action for college admissions
  • The Supreme Court halted President Biden's student loan relief plan
  • The Supreme Court allowed a business to refuse services for same-sex marriage

Analysis of Gorsuch's Opinion

06:59 - 13:40

  • Neil Gorsuch has decided that websites are speechy and the court will decide what else is speechy.
  • There is no limiting principle to determine what goods and services are pure speech.
  • Justice Sotomayor argues that businesses in the public sphere must serve all customers according to anti-discrimination laws.
  • The dispute in this case is hypothetical and should not have been heard.
  • The website submission used as evidence in this case is falling apart under inspection.
  • The oral arguments in this case were unhinged with Justice Alito making bizarre hypotheticals.
  • Gorsuch's opinion highlights his libertarian streak and raises concerns about government forcing artists to speak against their beliefs.
  • Gorsuch refers to Colorado's anti-discrimination laws as subjecting individuals to 're-education.'

Implications of Jack Phillips Case

13:12 - 20:13

  • Neil Gorsuch has a libertarian streak and is anti-status, favoring individual prosecution of personal views.
  • The majority opinion in the Jack Phillips case threatens to allow the exclusion of other groups from many services.
  • The decision could have implications for refusing service to other protected groups beyond LGBTQ individuals.
  • Gorsuch's opinion suggests that expanding non-discrimination provisions to include sexual orientation is constitutionally sound, but enforcement should not be forced on those who object.
  • The case is not actually about status discrimination, according to Gorsuch, but rather about the message of a particular wedding.
  • There are inconsistencies in the hypotheticals presented by Gorsuch regarding public accommodations law.
  • Justice Sotomayor calls out the majority's distinction between status and message as embarrassing.

Dissenting Opinion by Justice Sotomayor

19:56 - 27:01

  • The argument that a prohibition on status-based discrimination can be avoided by asserting that a group can always buy services on behalf of others or access a separate but equal subset of services is flawed.
  • Justice Sotomayor's dissent highlights the historical importance of public accommodations laws in combating sex and gender discrimination.
  • Throughout history, there have been attempts to limit anti-discrimination laws using First Amendment arguments, but they have been rejected until now.
  • Justice Sotomayor emphasizes the dignitary harm caused by refusal of service, even if alternative options are available.
  • The dissent argues that recognizing a constitutional right to refuse service sends a harmful message and allows businesses to openly discriminate against same-sex couples.
  • The court's opinion itself is seen as a notice that some services may be denied to same-sex couples.
  • Justice Sotomayor reminds us that the meaning of the Constitution is not solely determined by the Supreme Court and calls for individuals to live out the values of inclusivity and pluralism.
  • This case could potentially lay the groundwork for future challenges to Obergefell and the normalization of discriminatory treatment towards certain groups.

Analysis of Court Decisions on Standing

26:35 - 33:47

  • The case is about normalizing discrimination and the potential consequences of that normalization.
  • Research shows that when people learn certain kinds of discrimination are prohibited by law, it reduces prejudicial attitudes.
  • Conversely, when people learn that the law permits discrimination against a group, it enables more prejudicial attitudes.
  • A study found that President Trump's appointments to the circuit court were more likely to vote in favor of Christian plaintiffs and less likely to vote in favor of Muslim plaintiffs in free exercise cases.
  • In a student debt relief case, private borrowers who wanted more debt relief were found to have no standing, while states were found to have standing but had their claim struck down by the court.
  • Justice Kagan wrote a powerful descent in the student debt relief case but failed to cite recent scholarship criticizing the major questions doctrine.
  • Standing was an obvious issue in one student borrower case, but a tougher question in the case involving states. The court found a narrow opening for Missouri based on its ties to an entity involved in student loans.
  • The YOLO Court made controversial rulings on standing despite previous decisions suggesting different outcomes could be possible.

Lawsuit Involving Mohela

33:22 - 40:51

  • Mohela, a loan servicing entity, is involved in a lawsuit regarding the discharge of federal loans.
  • The American prospect reported that Mohela did not want to be part of the litigation and was not aware of it until it was filed.
  • There are indications that Mohela may actually make more money as a result of the federal plan.
  • The court is proceeding with the case based on the question of authority under the Heroes Act.
  • The court invokes the major questions doctrine to limit congressional and administrative authority.
  • The court defines major questions as matters of political salience, giving them the power to decide what falls under this category.
  • This decision continues a trend of judicial fiat and removing issues from democratic processes.

Supreme Court Decision on Student Loan Relief

40:21 - 47:30

  • John Roberts and Sam Alito find the program unfair and potentially illegal
  • The fairness argument is raised with two scenarios of college education versus starting a business
  • The government forgives loans for college graduates but not for business owners
  • The statute allows the secretary to waive or modify requirements
  • The court invokes the major question doctrine to support its decision
  • Justice Kagan criticizes the court's use of the major question doctrine
  • Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kagan have a tense exchange in their opinions
  • The court ends a program that would have provided relief for student borrowers, disproportionately affecting lower-income individuals, women, and communities of color
  • Criticism is directed towards John Roberts as being part of the problem on the court
  • Justice Kagan defends dissenting opinions as necessary when the court overreaches its role
  • Opinions about the court's decisions are divided among commentators

Impact of Supreme Court Decision on Student Loans

47:03 - 50:30

  • Limiting opportunities and access to higher education for minorities
  • Government relief for loans is available, as seen with PPP loans during COVID
  • Business loans are dischargeable in bankruptcy, while student loans are not
  • Democrats may struggle to make economic policy regarding student loan debt
  • Speculation about a more individualized application process for debt forgiveness
  • Reviving pauses or extensions as an alternative solution
  • The Supreme Court's decision impacted targeted relief efforts
  • Reminder to consider the responsibility of the six justices involved