Religion Dominates New U.S. Supreme Court Term


The first point in the spotlight as the United States Supreme Court begins its new session on Monday October 4 is the seemingly precarious state of abortion rights, an issue that LGBTQ groups have long viewed as “of vital importance. »For homosexual people.

But there are also several LGBTQ-related cases that require a review and several other cases that somehow involve LGBTQ issues. Add to that two important concerns: one is growing concern over when Liberal Judge Stephen Breyer, 83, may step down; and the other is the unusual move by conservative judge Samuel Alito to publicly defend the growing use by the court’s conservative majority of pre-trial proceedings to underpin conservative positions on highly controversial issues. (It was announced by the court on October 1 that Judge Brett Kavanaugh has tested positive for COVID-19. He is fully vaccinated, according to a court statement, and the news has come as the court prepares to resume the cases. oral argument.)

Most of the discussions in the new court session focus on abortion cases. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in December on the constitutionality of a new Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy. In this case, Dobbs v. Jackson, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), as well as the nine LGBTQ House members, signed a brief urging the court to overturn the Mississippi ban. Two dozen LGBTQ groups – including Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, GLAD, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Human Rights Campaign, Equality California, Equality North Carolina, LPAC and longtime marriage equality activist Evan Wolfson – also filed a brief argument against the Mississippi ban. The groups’ brief indicates that the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, who support women’s right to abortions, are of “vital importance” to sexual minority women, adding that federal statistics estimate that one in 12 women between the ages of 18 and 44 is a sexual minority.

“Rejecting Roe and Casey would have catastrophic effects on sexual minority women,” the group’s brief states. He notes that “lesbian, bisexual and other non-heterosexual women are at least as likely as other women to experience unintended pregnancies and to require abortion care. Women of sexual minorities are more likely to experience unintended pregnancies as a result of sexual violence. … “

In a separate appeal involving an even more restrictive state-wide abortion ban in Texas, LGBTQ legal group GLAD issued a press release, criticizing the Supreme Court’s vote in September to deny an injunction to prevent the law to enter into force until the court can rule on its constitutionality. GLAD said allowing the Texas abortion ban to go into effect “would hurt women, LGBTQ people and families …”.

“Safe and accessible reproductive health care, including abortion care, is a matter of racial, economic and gender justice,” GLAD said, “and we must all fight to repeal or overturn this ban and stop it. erosion of constitutional rights. protected the human right to reproductive choice.

Regular wave of calls
The Defending Freedom Alliance, a law firm primarily dedicated to undermining laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people, has so far asked the Supreme Court to review five cases in which people claim the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people by claiming a right of free exercise. do this. The court could announce overnight whether it will take up these cases:

Seattle’s Union Gospel c. Woods: Seattle’s Union of Gospel Mission, an evangelical group that provides food, shelter, and religious counseling to those in need, is asking the High Court to affirm part of Washington’s anti-discrimination law that allows ” any “nonprofit religious organization a waiver of the law’s prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment. Union Gospel appealed to the United States Supreme Court after the Washington Supreme Court ruled in March that the exemption was unconstitutional as applied to a gay man who applied for a job at the agency, after having first served there as a volunteer.

Gordon College v. DeWeese-Boyd: This appeal raises a similar issue to the Union Gospel case in Seattle. Gordon College, a private Christian missionary school in Massachusetts, was sued by one of its associate professors after the college denied him a full professorship. The school claimed that the teacher did not agree with his statement of religious faith; the teacher said it was because she was critical of the school’s policies on LGBTQ people and same-sex marriage.

Dignity Health v. Minton: In this case, a California hospital run by Roman Catholics refused to perform a hysterectomy for a transgender male to female patient. The hospital said it would violate ethical and religious guidelines that govern Catholic healthcare facilities. The patient, Evan Minton, sued, saying the hospital’s denial violated the state’s human rights law. So far, Minton has won, but the case has only gone to an intermediate state appeals court. The appeal has been on the United States Supreme Court’s conference list for over a year.

Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington: This case has been before the Supreme Court since 2018 and concerns a florist who refuses to sell wedding arrangements to same-sex couples, claiming that a religious belief requires discrimination. The Washington Supreme Court has ruled against the florist twice, and her petition to the United States Supreme Court was dismissed in July this year. The Defending Freedom Alliance has asked the Supreme Court to rehear this appeal, saying it is very similar to another case coming to Colorado court (see below).

303 Creative v. Elenis: This is a variation of the Colorado Masterpiece Cakeshop case. In this case, a Colorado graphic designer who creates websites for couples who marry refused to create one for a same-sex couple, saying it goes against her religious beliefs. The couple sued, claiming the performer violated a state law prohibiting discrimination in public places; the artist appealed and the 10th United States Court of Appeals ruled against her. On appeal to the United States Supreme Court, the Alliance argues that Colorado law violates an artist’s right to the free exercise of his religious beliefs.

Other LGBTQ cases of interest
In other cases affecting the LGBTQ community, the Supreme Court announced on September 30 that it would review a lower court ruling from the 1st US Court of Appeals. This court ruled that the city of Boston’s right to allow certain groups, but not a Christian civic group, to hoist their flag over City Hall was a legal exercise in “government speech.”

According to Liberty Counsel, a legal group promoting religious freedom, Boston allows secular flags, including the LGBTQ Pride flag, to fly above City Hall, but does not allow a “religious flag.” The city said its policy was “in line with well-established First Amendment jurisprudence” against “establishing religion.” Liberty Counsel, representing Harold Shurtleff whose camp constitution sought to hoist a flag prominently displaying a white Christian cross, said the city’s action violated the First Amendment.

The court scheduled the argument for December 8 Carson v. Makin, which is not an LGBTQ-related case, but another case in which religious entities seek special dispensation under common law. It is also a case that echoes the arguments put forward by religious entities to avoid complying with non-discrimination laws: that the religious person does not discriminate against a gay person, but discriminates against a person because their partner is the same. sex.

In Carson, parents of five in Maine are fighting a state policy of providing public funding for parents to send their children to private schools willing to provide “non-denominational education.” Maine does not provide funding for parents to send their children to schools providing religious education. The 1st United States Court of Appeals said Maine could suspend funding for sectarian schools because the exclusion was not based on a school’s religious affiliation, but “on what the school teaches as part of its curriculum and related activities, and on how the material is presented “.

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