OPINION: Big US Supreme Court Wins for West Virginia, and the nation

By W.Va. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey,

The U.S. Supreme Court wrapped up its latest term with four climactic conclusions, issuing decisions in four big cases—in which West Virginia played a key role. These decisions are vital to the true meaning of our Constitutional Republic, and protected the rights of the American people as spelled out in our Constitution.

After those rulings, the Supreme Court also overturned a lower court’s hold on the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. I filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to uphold Section 324 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 to restart the project’s stalled construction.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is vital to the survival of American energy independence and affects thousands of jobs in West Virginia—its completion is also critical to our national security, the urgent need is for it to be completed as soon as possible.

As your Attorney General, it is my job to represent the state in the Supreme Court in cases like these, and I will not hesitate to fight for the interests of the people of West Virginia. Just before the Mountain Valley Pipeline decision, the Court ruled on four cases West Virginia took part in.

First, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action (Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College) at public universities and private colleges that take federal funds, ruling that race-based college admissions are unconstitutional—a decision that will effectively end affirmative action in college admissions.

West Virginia joined a 19-state coalition led by Oklahoma that argued federal law prohibits universities from discriminating against Asian-American applicants in their admissions processes, and that discrimination based on race in higher education admissions at public colleges is unlawful.

Racial quotas are wrong. Colleges and universities should judge prospective students on the merits. It is also important for colleges to ensure true diversity on campuses by focusing on socioeconomic status, which would help West Virginians of modest means get into the schools they want to attend.

Then there was Groff v. DeJoy, which gave Americans a broader right to religious accommodations in the workplace. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 businesses have to accommodate the religious practices of their employees so long as doing so does not cause an “undue hardship.”

I co-led a 22-state coalition in an amicus brief in February, which supported the case involving Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian who faithfully observes Sunday Sabbath. He was a mail carrier in Pennsylvania when the United States Postal Service signed an agreement with Amazon in 2013 to deliver packages on Sundays and holidays.

Groff resigned in 2019 after USPS refused to grant him a blanket exemption from Sunday shifts.

The Supreme Court ruling was a welcome win. People should not have to choose between their jobs and their religion

In another case where I joined a 17-state coalition, the Supreme Court ruled the HEROES Act does not authorize the Secretary of Education to issue mass cancellation of student loans—a whopping $400 billion in outstanding federal student loans.

I would point out that SCOTUS relied in part on the major-questions doctrine and West Virginia v. EPA—the Supreme Court held that Congress did not empower the President to “seize the power of the Legislature” on this issue. This was not just a win for the rule of law, it also ensured the proper balance of powers under the Constitution, under which the President cannot simply make law by executive fiat.

While we are all sympathetic with people who took out exorbitant loans, it was wrong and unlawful for President Biden to promise something he had no authority over.

Finally, the Supreme Court decided on 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which defended the First Amendment rights of business owners. I was part of a 20-state coalition that filed an amicus brief, which supported the position of 303 Creative.

At issue was whether a state could force a person to provide a wedding website for same sex couples. Lorie Smith, who owns 303 Creative in Colorado, wants to expand her business into wedding websites, but her religious beliefs prohibit her from promoting same-sex weddings.

Our coalition argued that states cannot use their public accommoda­tion laws to force business owners to create custom speech.

In these cases, we stood for what is right and just. It’s not often that you go 5-0 at the U.S. Supreme Court in such a short period of time—but we have a good team that fights effectively for West Virginia citizens.

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