The Cycle | January 07, 2013
>>> developing news of washington this afternoon. aside from the president's nomination of chuck hagel , over at the supreme court , the justices returned to the bempbl for the second half of a term that promises action on hot buttonishes including gay marriage , affirmative action and voting rights . let's bring in justice correspondent pete williams . pete, out of the gate this morning, the court opted not to take up cases of guns in church, medicare and campaign finance .
>> those are all issues the court declined to take up and upheld a georgia law banning the carrying of a gun in to a church. it refused to take up a challenge of dick armey to opt out of medicare and turned down a lawsuit of an anti-abortion group claiming that the federal government is wrongly ruling to abide by campaign disclosure and refused to take up a fight over the federal financing of stem cell research . now, this was a lawsuit that one point did stop federal research funding but the work continued and the battle seems to be over.
>> that's the glass half empty stuff. let's talk about what they will do and a very important court . talk about the big questions that will be answered in this term and let's focus in your answer on what anthony kennedy will do as the decider.
>> not cases, but certainly affirmative action , that's already been argued. that's in school admissions. we're waiting to get the decision on that. we'll get decisions tomorrow and wednesday. seems a little early for that case but it could come anytime now. on same-sex marriage, it's two cases, and we know now when they'll be argued. the court announced that today. they'll be argued the last two argument days in march. on march 26th the court will hear the challenge to california's proposition 8 , that's the voter approve ed initiative that put a stop to same-sex marriage. and then the next day on the 27th, it will hear the legal arguments in a challenge to the fird defen federal defense of marriage act , the federal law that prevents the government from recognizes same-sex marriages in the states where they're already legal. you had up there the voting rights act . this is the question of whether it's out of date, the requirement for preclearance in states that have a history of racial discrimination . they have to get permission from the federal government before they can make any changes at all in how they conduct elections. the states there argue that the law is behind the times , that they actually do a better job now than some northern states do and it's just not fair to hold them to this standard. so three or four big issues. this is clearly going to be the civil rights case -- civil rights issue term, more so than in many past decades.
>> pete, you mentioned the voting rights act there. specifically this deals with section 5, the preclearance provision.
>> i have picking up from supporters of preclearance, i'm picking up on an awful lot of sort of negativity in terms of how they think this is disappearing to go. i guess roberts a couple years ago basically made a comment that things have changed in the south.
>> we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but if the court does toss section 5, what would be the larger impact on the entire voting rights act if that were to happen?
>> the civil rights advocates would tell you section 5 is the real teeth. this is the thing that requires states to justify their changes in advance. the other part of the law would remain intact. that's the part of the law that allows anybody to sue a state if they believe it engages in racial discrimination at the polls. but civil rights advocates would say this just invites a game of whack a mole. that every time something pops up, they have to run around the country filing these various challenges. the other side, the satates say they're guilty until proven innocent in this situation. as you note, the supreme court said a couple years ago things have changed in the south. now, the court -- i think the reason for the pessimism is the court came very close a couple years ago to striking down section five, sort of looked over the cliff, if you will, and backed away from doing it, but it was a message to congress to say, look, if you want us to uphold this law again, change the law, change the map of what states have to do this. congress hasn't done anything and that's the reason for the pessimism.
>> all right. nbc's pete williams . thanks so much for that.
>> my pleasure.
>> and up next, we cycle on with a possible lance confession. are his sins forgivable?