US Supreme Court readies historic rulings

The US Supreme Court is preparing to hand down one of the most significant sequences of judgements in US history, with upcoming rulings expected to have far-reaching consequences for millions of Americans.

The nine-justice panel must issue opinions on outstanding cases it has heard in fall and winter sessions by the end of June.

They are set to rule on cases involving hot button issues such as gay marriage, equal opportunities in education and voter rights for minorities.

The first of the keenly awaited opinions could be released as early as Monday, with analysts tipping the possibility of a resolution to a case revolving around the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Texas at Austin.

An undergraduate student, Abigail Fisher has challenged the college's decision to deny her admission because of racial quotas.

Fisher argued that she had effectively been discriminated against because she was white, in violation of equal protection rules enshrined in the US Constitution.

A separate case also seeks to address another crucial pillar of the civil rights struggle, looking into whether federal laws protecting minority voting rights were still warranted.

In the most high-profile case, justices will rule on the legality of same-sex marriage following landmark oral hearings in March.

Elizabeth Wydra, a lawyer at the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the upcoming rulings might even outweigh last year's arguments on health care.

"Everyone thought that last term was the term of the century because of the health care arguments," Wydra told AFP.

"But this term might be even more historic because the Court is considering the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, one of America's most iconic civil rights laws, the constitutionality of providing for equal opportunity in higher education in the affirmative action case, and a fundamental question of equality in the same-sex marriage cases.

"It's a very important term for millions of Americans who want to enjoy their constitutional right to equality."

Wydra said attempting to predict which way the court would lean in its opinions was fraught with difficulty, believing that the views of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has often held the swing vote on close decisions in the past, may again be key.

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