Supreme Court rulings mark progress for social work causes

NASW celebrated the majority decisions on several historic cases announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

The high court’s 5-4 ruling in Obergerfell v. Hodges cleared the way for every state in the nation to adhere to marriage equality.

“Today’s ruling will benefit thousands of same-sex couples living in states currently denying equal access to marriage for same-sex couples,” NASW stated on its advocacy blog shortly after the opinion was released by the court. “The decision offers them and their families the same recognition and benefits as married heterosexual couples.”

NASW, through its Legal Defense Fund, joined the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and other organizations in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court urging the justices to make the historic decision.

“The Supreme Court ruling will go a long way in helping address such inequalities and NASW stands ready to continue pressing for equal rights for all,” the association stated.

The post noted that NASW has supported the Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress on a study that shows lack of legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families —

including the right to marry — has resulted in higher taxes, reduced wages and Social Security income, and increased health care costs for this population.

While marriage equality marks a great advancement for the LGBT community, members of the NASW National Committee on LGBT Issues noted that inequalities still need to be addressed, such as the right in some states for same-sex couples to adopt children.

Other issues such as the inequalities experienced disproportionately by transgender individuals in terms of homelessness, unemployment and violence are in need of review going forward.

Committee member Zander Keig, senior social worker at San Diego VA Health Care System, said he would like to see more equality among and between members of LGBT communities.

Fair Housing Act

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the “disparate impact” provision in the Fair Housing Act of 1968 is indeed constitutional and is a necessary tool for eliminating housing discrimination, according to NASW’s advocacy blog post.

The Fair Housing Act is one of the most important and effective pieces of legislation passed during the Civil Rights Era, NASW noted. The association said it applauded the court’s decision in the case, Texas v. The Inclusive Communities Project.

“Had the Supreme Court sided with the State of Texas, which argued that the disparate impact provision was no longer relevant, it would have likely meant that fair housing policies and statutes across the country would become inexecutable,” NASW stated.

Affordable Care Act

Finally, the high court dismissed a challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act.

According to the NASW Advocacy blog, in a 6-3 ruling in the case, King v. Burwell, the court dismissed the contention that providing subsidies to low-income persons to purchase health care through the ACA was not proper due to lack of specific authorization in the wording of the law.

Had the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, it was estimated that as many as 8 million people would have become uninsured, NASW noted.

“Not only has the court’s decision eliminated this particular test of the legitimacy of ACA, legal experts suggest that the wording of the majority opinion will make it far more difficult for future attempts to legally challenge the ACA to reach the Supreme Court,” NASW stated in its blog post. This was a major victory for those who advocate providing health care access for all Americans.”

(Read the Legal Issue of the Month article summarizing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and their importance to social work. )

In other advocacy news, NASW has joined the “Save our Retirement” coalition, a well-respected group that has initiated a national advocacy effort around excessive fees and related costs to low-income, mostly minority, persons against their 401Ks.

The coalition is generating congressional support for approving the Department of Labor’s Rule to Protect Americans’ Retirement Security.

This rule regulates and issues guidelines on defining “financial advisers” for banking interests and the fees such advisers can charge on individual retirement accounts such as 401Ks and IRAs.

Recent NASW Advocacy Sign-on Letters

NASW signs on to:

  • A letter opposing the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act. The bill, if passed, would eliminate cities and jurisdictions from declaring themselves as being an immigration Sanctuary City
  • A Mental Health Liaison Group letter supporting the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act
  • NASad-hoc letter supporting the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act in the Senate and the House of Representatives
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s Dear Colleague letter urging co-sponsorship of the “Put a Nurse in the Nursing Home Act”
  • Leadership Council of Aging Organizations letter urging the House to take up the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act
  • Ad-hoc letter supporting the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act
  • Support of Mental Health Liaison Group letter to Senate on Children’s Recovery from Trauma Act
  • Leadership Council of Aging Organizations letter urging the Senate to pass the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act
  • Support of Mental Health Liaison Group letter to House on Children’s Recovery from Trauma Act
  • Letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch about Law Enforcement Response to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
  • Designating the first full week of May as National Mental Health No Stigma Week
  • Ad-hoc letter to Senate Finance Committee regarding policy initiatives to facilitate the delivery of high-quality care for Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions
  • Letter asking President Obama to end the detention of mothers and children who have fled violence

For a full listing of recent NASW Advocacy: Policy Issues updates.