Tracking the latest developments in the fight for a fair America
This morning the Supreme Court will hear a case about playground surfaces that could pave the way for public funding of religious schools. Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer asks whether Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources must allow religious entities to participate in a state program providing grants for resurfacing playgrounds with tire scraps. The State denied Trinity Lutheran’s grant application, citing a provision in the Missouri Constitution providing that public funds cannot be used “in aid of any church, section or denomination of religion.”
Yesterday, in a landmark opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that employers can be sued for discriminating against employees because of their sexual orientation. But this laudable ruling, which most likely sets the stage for a future Supreme Court showdown, comes as the Supreme Court seems poised to add a new and ultraconservative justice to its ranks: Neil Gorsuch.
Writing for the court in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Chief Judge Diane Wood concluded that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination” and, therefore, unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the civil rights statute that protects against discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin”). Chief Judge Wood’s opinion was joined by seven members of the eleven-judge panel. Of the eight judges in the majority, Republican presidents appointed five. Judge Diane Sykes, who was on President Trump’s short list for potential nominees to the Supreme Court, dissented. Read more
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for a seat on the Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch’s nomination will now move to the floor thanks to the votes of all 11 Republican members of the Committee and without attracting a single Democratic vote.
Moreover, it became clear at today’s hearing that Judge Gorsuch will be unable to amass bipartisan support in the full Senate in the form of the 60 votes needed to secure a lifetime spot on the Court. This revelation led Republicans to cry foul, claiming that the 60-vote threshold is unnecessary and concluding that the only reasonable course of action is to change the Senate rules to require merely 51 votes to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. Read more
On January 21, 2017, over four million people marched in more than 600 U.S. cities and over 80 countries across the world to express growing alarm over the persistent inequality and increased hostility faced by women. The Women’s March, in some ways, was a direct response to the election of Donald Trump, a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and has made so many degrading comments about women that it is impossible to include them all here. At a time when it is critical for all Americans to stand up for women’s rights, President Trump has nominated a man to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, who has a long history of expressing contempt and hostility toward women.
As a young man studying at Columbia University, Gorsuch was a member of the fraternity on campus known for its degrading treatment of women. Among other things, the fraternity celebrated each time one of its members had sex with a virgin by painting a fire hydrant on frat row. Students on campus targeted the fraternity during a Take Back the Night march because of its reputation as the “date-rape fraternity.” Gorsuch was an ardent supporter of both his fraternity and fraternity culture on campus. He dismissed women who spoke out against the fraternity’s violent misogyny, saying that their “demonstrations and rallies are causes that inspire no one and offer no fresh ideas or important notions for the students or school to consider.” Read more
Over the next several weeks, the House of Representatives is set to consider bills that all have one thing in common: to make it more difficult for everyday Americans to hold corporations accountable when they are victims of fraud; when they are injured because of corporate negligence; or when their rights are violated.
These pieces of legislation – which are being considered with blinding speed – are all designed to tilt our justice system to one that favors corporations and special interests over workers, consumers and investors; the bills would make it far easier for corporations to violate the law without consequence. Read more