LGBT issues

  • 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.

  • February 27, 2014
     
    In Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. said that the Department of Justice notified defendants whose information had been “obtained or derived from” the Section 702 surveillance program. However, the DOJ’s claims were found to be untrue. Writing for The Intercept, Dan Novack reports on the implications of this “false assurance” to the high court.
     
    Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers after politicians, business owners and even the 2015 Super Bowl host committee protested the controversial bill. Aaron Blake of The Washington Post comments on the governor’s decision.
     
    A federal district court judge in Texas declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ban, enacted in 2005 by popular referendum, was held to violate the Fourteenth Amendment by U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia. Manny Fernandez of The New York Times has the story.
     
    The Supreme Court could soon rule on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. David Early and Avram Billig at the Brennan Center for Justice break down the five decisions that have shaped campaign finance law.
     
    Liz Watson at Womenstake explains how the Maryland Fair Employment Preservation Act would ensure that “all workers in Maryland have an effective remedy from supervisor harassment.”
  • February 26, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    On Mar. 3, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case that will decide whether Freddie Hall should be on death row.  In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Prof. Marc Tasse argues that Florida’s standard for evaluating intellectual disability in death penalty cases is “unscientific and a breach of Hall’s constitutional protection as mandated in Atkins v. Virginia.” For more on Hall v. Florida, please see analysis by Prof. John H. Blume at ACSblog.
     
    Consumers were victorious Monday when the high court rejected an appeal from washing machine manufacturers in a class-action lawsuit. Writing for Slate, Emily Bazelon explains why the decision is “surprising and good news.” 
     
    Republicans are calling for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers. ReutersDavid Schwartz reports on growing frustration in the Grand Canyon State.
     
    The Supreme Court heard oral argument this week on the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Adam Liptak at The New York Times reviews Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA.
     
    On the second anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death, Charles D. Ellison of The Root reflects on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. 
  • February 21, 2014
     
    Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that allows businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers and to deny equal pay to women. GOP lawmakers are fervently defending the legislation, claiming that it protects the religious freedoms outlined in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. MSNBC’s Adam Serwer reports on the controversial law.
     
    Oregon officials announced that they will no longer uphold the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Although the fate of the ban has yet to be decided in the courts, the state’s decision remains a significant victory for gay couples in Oregon. Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBlog has the story.
     
    Environmentalists are engaged in a legal dispute with the Environmental Protection Agency after a North Carolina energy company polluted a nearby river with hazardous coal ash. Rena Steinzor and Michael Patoka of the CPRBlog discuss the need to regulate toxic coal ash and the alleged mishandling by the state’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
     
    Human Rights Watch explains why a deadly U.S. drone strike on a wedding procession in Yemen may have “violated the laws of war.”
     
    Writing for Balkinization, David Gans responds to Prof. Douglas Laycock’s claim that corporations can exercise religion.
     
    At Womenstake, Stephanie Glover provides an update on women’s enrollment in health insurance plans through the new Health Insurance Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act.