LGBT issues

  • March 14, 2014
     
    Yesterday, President Obama requested a review of the administration’s enforcement policies for immigration laws. The White House asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to oversee the process. Seung Min Kim and Reid J. Epstein at POLITICO report on the president’s effort to create a more humane immigration system.
     
    In 1975, Sen. Frank Church (D- Idaho) organized a Senate committee to review American intelligence activities.  Referred to as the Church Committee, the group uncovered secret wrong-doings by the U.S. government.  Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr. at The Nation argues “why we need a new Church Committee to fix our broken intelligence system.”
     
    Mississippi lawmakers voted to “study” a bill that gay rights activists believe would promote discrimination on the basis of religion. Adam Serwer at MSNBC comments on “the latest setback for the religious right.”
     
    Writing for Voices at the Open Society Foundations, Viorel Ursu explains why Ukraine’s future will be decided “by the new government’s response to the fundamental demands for justice.”
     
    At The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen notes the “problem of lengthy delays in capital cases.”
     
    Dan Markel at Prawfsblawg breaks down a new paper by Larry Krieger that helps answer the question, “What makes lawyers happy?”
  • March 12, 2014
    As the Supreme Court prepares to hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. on Mar. 25, the companies refusing to provide contraception insurance coverage to their employees prepare to “frame their objections narrowly.” Emily Bazelon at Slate reveals “what the religious right really thinks of birth control.”
     
    Jeffrey Thompson, a government contractor, pleaded guilty to funneling large amounts of campaign contributions to several political candidates, including Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. Zoe Tillman at Legal Times reports on the growing controversy surrounding Thompson’s trial and the implications for the 2014 mayoral election. 
     
    A group of Californians filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court in an effort to “block a city ordinance banning gun ammunition-holders (‘magazines’) that contain more than ten bullets.” Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog breaks down Fyock v. City of Sunnyvale.
     
    A same-sex couple filed for divorce in Alabama, causing a plethora of legal questions to arise in a state that refuses to recognize gay marriage. Brian Lawson of The Huntsville Times describes how the state’s marriage ban is “[leaving] the couple without an easy way to untie the knot.”
     
    At The New York Times, Paul Krugman explains why “taking action to reduce the extreme inequality of 21st-century America would probably increase, not reduce, economic growth.”
     
    Staci Zaretsky at Above the Law comments on the U.S News & World Report 2015 law school rankings.
  • March 5, 2014

    The Justice Department has been asked to investigate accusations of CIA surveillance of computers used by Senate staff to prepare a Senate Intelligence Committee report allegedly detailing “how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques that many experts consider torture.” Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins, and Maris Taylor at McClatchy DC have the story.

     
    State officials are appealing U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II’s ruling that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside the state. Writing for The Courier-Journal, Tom Loftus and Chris Kenning report on why the Office of the Attorney General is sitting this one out.
     
    The Supreme Court agreed to hear oral argument in a case that challenges the Arkansas Department of Corrections’ no-beard policy for inmates. Ruthann Robson—Faculty Advisor for the CUNY School of Law ACS Student Chapter—reviews Holt v. Hobbs at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog and explores whether the ADC’s policy violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
     
    Yesterday, the Supreme Court expanded whistleblower protections. In Lawson v. FMR LLC, the justices agreed to extend such protections to businesses working for public companies. Writing for Reuters, Lawrence Hurley breaks down the high court’s decision.
     
    Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic examines United States v. Maloney, a case that features a wrongfully convicted man, an intrepid prosecutor and “a result … that is worthy of respect.”
     
    Alex Rich at Above the Law argues why a new meaning of legal work “may define the work of a generation of lawyers.”
  • February 27, 2014
    Guest Post

    by James C. Nelson, Justice, Montana Supreme Court (Retired)

    Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer said she’d do the right thing, and she did. Good for her; she made the correct decision.

    The right decision for the right reason would have been for her to say outright that Senate Bill 1062 was simply religious bigotry against LGBT people and had no place in Arizona’s civil code. End of story; end of bill.

    Instead, Governor Brewer vetoed the proposed law because of the outcry of big business.  Corporate America – hailed by some in the popular media as a “beacon of progress” – has come to realize that conservative religious zealotry hurts the bottom line. Bigotry and business seemingly don’t make good bedfellows any more – as they may well have when the conservative Christian Right was in its heyday not too many years ago.

    I suggest what is happening here is not that Corporate America has suddenly developed a social and moral conscience. Rather, big business does what it always does where constitutional rights are concerned. If embracing those rights adds luster to the “brand” and dollar signs to the bottom line, then count the big guys in. If the opposite is true -- equal pay and freedom of choice for women -- for example, well that’s likely to be another story. In the end, greed usually trumps God, and that’s what happened here.

    But am I complaining that the LGBT Community won this round in the way it did? No I am not.  A win is a win; and if one’s frenemies are on your side in the battle, we all get to bask in the victory.

    But before America’s newest beacons of progress get complacent on this issue, be aware that other States are still in the process of putting “right to discriminate” laws in play – Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee and Utah.

    All of us who are committed to equality under the law won this battle; but the war is not over.  We’ll take the win; and we’ll take your help Corporate America. 

    Homophobic discrimination is wrong for the right reasons – and for the wrong reasons as well. Pick your weapon; it’s the result that matters.

  • February 27, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Richard W. Painter, the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law School

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has listened to the concerns of a wide range of pro-business Republicans, Democrats and Independents who want Arizona to be open for business to everybody.

    Senate Bill 1062 would have legalized discrimination on religious grounds by changing the definition of a “person” entitled to assert religious freedom as a defense in a discrimination lawsuit:

    "Person" includes a religious assembly or institution ANY INDIVIDUAL, ASSOCIATION, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, CHURCH, RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY OR INSTITUTION, ESTATE, TRUST, FOUNDATION OR OTHER LEGAL ENTITY."

    The existing statutory language - crossed out above and replaced in Senate Bill 1062 with the now vetoed language in ALL CAPS - remains the law in Arizona. This existing law allows a Christian Church to tell a fifteen year old Jewish girl that she cannot take communion without, among other things, affirming the divinity of Christ. The existing statute, however, does not give a Christian flower shop owner an excuse to refuse to sell the girl flowers for her bat mitzvah, and later an excuse not to sell her flowers for her wedding.  

    The objective of this bill was to legalize religiously motivated discrimination against gays rather than against Jews or other religious minorities. The language, however, is extremely broad, presumably because singling out discrimination against gays for a statutory discrimination safe harbor would have raised even more constitutional problems than the text of the legislation as it was written.