Tag Archives: Supreme Court

A Summer of Equality: Momentum Builds for Marriage Equality in the Courts

After decades of fighting for the rights of same-sex couples to marry, supporters of marriage equality experienced an amazing summer, full of numerous victories in courts throughout the country.

Since the beginning of June 2014, the one year anniversary of United States v. Windsor, courts ruled or upheld rulings that same-sex couples have a right to marry and that marriages performed in other states must be recognized in the following states: Colorado (state and federal courts), Florida (federal court), Indiana (federal & Seventh Circuit courts), Oklahoma (Tenth Circuit Court), Utah (Tenth Circuit), and Wisconsin (federal & Seventh Circuit courts). In a separate court case than the one mentioned above before the federal and Seventh Circuit, a federal court also ruled that marriages performed in other states must be recognized in Indiana.

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Senate Filibuster of Hobby Lobby Fix Bill Shows Continuing Disregard for Women’s Health

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby almost three weeks ago, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) and Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” (S. 2578/H.R. 5051).

This bill was crafted in the aftermath of Hobby Lobby to ensure that all people will continue to access all kinds of medical needs and services whether their employer might have a religious objection or not. Additionally, it maintains the contraception mandate’s accommodation and exemption for religious non-profits and for houses of worship.

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Debating ENDA

Recent headlines about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) have been reminiscent of those from nearly seven years ago, when ENDA passed the House of Representatives. In the 110th Congress, then-Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the first trans-inclusive version of ENDA. However, after a preliminary vote proved the bill had no chance of passing, Rep. Frank stripped ENDA of its gender identity language and introduced a sexual orientation-only version of the bill, which passed the House of Representatives in November 2007.

This controversial decision divided the LGBT rights advocacy community. Some organizations withdrew support for the legislation, feeling that the exclusion of the transgender community significantly diminished the efficacy of the bill. Others, including the RAC, the Humans Rights Campaign, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, felt that piecemeal protection was better than no protection at all. We remained vocal, however, about our belief that protection only on the basis of sexual orientation was not enough. Judaism teaches love of humanity and respect for the divinity in all people. Guided by those ideals, the Reform Jewish Movement continues to maintain ardent support for legislation that advances civil and human rights.

Yet again, the LGBT rights advocacy community is split in the fight for ENDA. On July 8, a few prominent LGBT and civil rights organizations, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the ACLU, formally dropped their support for the bill in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

The court decided in the case that Hobby Lobby and other closely-held, secular for-profit corporations do not have to cover for their employees the contraceptive care to which they object on religious grounds. The LGBT advocacy organizations that have withdrawn their support of ENDA are concerned that this ruling could affect the interpretation of ENDA’s current religious exemption.

Regardless of the implications posed by the Hobby Lobby case, there is no denying that an inclusive, federal workplace non-discrimination law is long overdue. Since ENDA was introduced more than a year and a half ago, the RAC and its allies in the LGBT rights community have tirelessly fought for this essential piece of legislation, pushing passage in the Senate and securing a record number of bipartisan co-sponsors in the House. We cannot ignore the urgent need for a law, backed by bipartisan support, that would advance the rights of the LGBT community and ensure that tens of millions of LGBT people are protected in the workplace.

Supreme Court

Updates: Since the Hobby Lobby Decision

A week ago today, the Supreme Court came down in what will be noted as one of the most important decisions in recent memory. In finding that closely-held corporations have the right to free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), these entities can thus seek exemptions from the contraception mandate. Although the majority opinion showed significant effort on the part of the Court to curtail RFRA-based exemptions to the contraception mandate and the contraception mandate only, it is clear that the Hobby Lobby case will have serious and significant impact.

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Supreme Court

Updated: Reform Movement Decries Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Decision

In their 5-4 ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court found that closely-held corporations – like Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties – may seek an exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Although Justice Samuel Alito attempted to curtail the decision to apply only for exemptions to the contraception mandate, this ruling could be construed down the line to allow other closely-held corporations to seek other exemptions under RFRA from further health insurance requirements and civil rights laws. In response to the ruling, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Council of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism jointly issued a statement:

“We bemoan the Supreme Court’s decision today, which, in ascribing the same religious free exercise rights to closely-held for-profit corporations that are essential to individuals and religious associations, allows countless numbers of corporations to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare that those women seek. We also acknowledge the Court making clear that this ruling applies only to the contraception mandate and does not provide for exemptions for coverage of other health care needs or from statutes barring illegal discrimination.”

You can read the statement in its entirety here. Read more…

Supreme Court

The High Court Strikes Down MA Buffer Zone in McCullen v. Coakley

Yesterday morning – surprising many – the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices came down unanimously in McCullen v. Coakley, a case that questioned the constitutionality of a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health care facilities (abortion clinics) in Massachusetts. The justices found that the law in question was not sufficiently narrowly tailored, and was thus in violation of the First Amendment. In writing for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts was careful to point out that there is an important interest in providing for the safety and well-being for the women and employees trying to access these clinics.

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One Year Since Windsor, One Year of Victories

One year ago, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. The decision not only granted federal marriage recognition to millions of the couples throughout the country, but also a sparked a year of momentous marriage victories in the states.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Yesterday, just in time for this anniversary, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in Utah. As you may recall, a Utah district court judge issued a ruling striking down a ban on same-sex marriage back in December. Over a thousand couples rushed to the courts to be married, right before the Supreme Court issued a stay, pending appeal. This appellate court ruling is also stayed pending further action, which could be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday’s ruling in Utah holds particular significance in that it is the first time a federal appeals court has struck down a state’s ban.  Read more…

Supreme Court

One Year Later: Protecting Voting Rights After Shelby v. Holder

Today is the one-year anniversary of Shelby v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Renewed by bipartisan majorities on several occasions, most recently in 2006, the Voting Rights Act long protected Americans from discrimination at the ballot box. The Shelby decision struck down Section 4(b), a provision of the bill that required states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to pre-clear potentially discriminatory voting changes with the federal Department of Justice. While some parts of the Voting Rights Act do remain in place, in the year since the Court’s decision a number of states and jurisdictions have engaged in discriminatory behaviors. Read more…