Corporations, LGBTQ orgs file amicus brief with upcoming SCOTUS cases

WASHINGTON — A coalition of corporation and LGBTQ organizations have filed an amicus brief on three SCOTUS cases on LGBTQ discrimination in employment. The Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, Out Leadership, and Freedom for All Americans announced on Tuesday that 206 major corporations have signed a “friend of the court” brief that will be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. The HRC said in a press release that it was a new record number of corporations signing a business brief on an LGBTQ discrimination case. “At this critical moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality, these leading businesses are sending a clear message to the Supreme Court that LGBTQ people should, like their fellow Americans, continue to be protected from discrimination,” said Jay Brown, Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training for the HRC Foundation. “These employers know first-hand that protecting the LGBTQ community is both good for business and the right thing to do.

Three SCOTUS cases could change LGBTQ rights

WASHINGTON — Three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court could have long lasting impacts on the rights of LGBTQ people in the workplace. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that cases involving a child welfare worker, a skydiving instructor, and a funeral director could determine if an employer could discriminate against LGBTQ employees are before the court. From Bloomberg:
In recent years, some courts have ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination also implicitly prohibits bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “When a male employee is fired because he has a husband, and he would not be fired if he were a woman who had a husband, then he was fired because of his sex,” says Jennifer Pizer, law and policy director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a nonprofit that pursues LGBTQ civil rights cases. “When a trans woman was acceptable at work presenting as a man, but was fired when she presented her true gender, which is female, she was fired for being the wrong kind of woman.”

Citing past precedent that discrimination for not conforming to sex stereotypes is a form of illegal sex discrimination, several federal circuit courts have embraced such arguments, creating a patchwork of protections covering their jurisdictions.

SCOTUS denies appeal for gay inmate on death row

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an appeal from a gay inmate on death row who may have been sentenced because of homophobic opinions of the jury. Charles Rhines, who was sentenced in 1993 for murder, had his appeal reach SCOTUS on Friday, April 12. On Monday, his attorneys said the court had denied his petition for certiorari. “As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an earlier case, ‘[o]ur law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.’ New evidence – which has never been heard by any court — shows that some of the jurors who sentenced Mr. Rhines to death did so because of who he was, not for what he did,” said Shawn Nolan,  Rhines’s attorney. “The new juror statements show that some jurors, because they knew Mr. Rhines was a gay man, thought that he would enjoy life in prison with other men and it would not serve as a sufficient punishment.

SCOTUS may hear appeal for gay man on death row

Court may rule on if anti-LGBTQ jury bias was behind a gay man’s death sentence. WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court this week could rule if a jury sentenced Charles Rhines to death because he’s gay. The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals denied Rhines’s appeal in September. Six organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, Lambda Legal, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National LGBT Bar Association, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in August following the discovery of comments from jurors suggesting that sentencing Rhines to life in prison with other men would be “sending him where he wants to go.”

Rhines appealed the ruling to SCOTUS in February asking the Court to review his case after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to do so by a two-to-one vote, according to a release from the lawyers representing him. Last week, amicus briefs were filed in support of Rhines by several of the country¹s leading civil rights organizations, including NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, among others.

61 LGBTQ orgs call for delay on Kavanaugh hearing

WASHINGTON — More than 60 LGBTQ organizations from across the country have called on the Senate Judiciary to delay hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In an open letter, the organizations want the hearings delayed to allow an investigation of the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. The participating organizations include Equality Illinois and LGBTQ organizations from Iowa, Missouri and Michigan, as well as national organizations like Lambda Legal, GLAAD, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. From the letter:
We, the undersigned 61 national, state and local advocacy organizations, representing the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and everyone living with HIV, write to urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to postpone the upcoming hearing on the confirmation of Brett M. Kavanaugh to a seat on the United States Supreme Court so that a fair and appropriate investigation can take place regarding the detailed and credible allegations of sexual assault made by Professor Christine Blasey Ford. Scheduling a hearing on Monday allows no time for any such investigation to occur, undermining the credibility of the entire exercise.

The right wastes no time in pushing for new Supreme Court justice

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate GOP and conservative groups have already started working on getting a new conservative justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Politico reported late Wednesday afternoon that Judicial Crisis Network was beginning a seven-figure campaign on national cable and digital platforms intended to boost Trump’s. The effort will launch on Thursday and is aimed at putting moderate Senate Democrats in a tough spot before the election, less than a day after Kennedy’s announcement. “President Trump has proven that he wants the best of the best on the Supreme Court. He appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch, a fair and independent justice, committed to the Constitution,” a narrator says in the ad.

SCOTUS refuses to hear challenge to anti-LGBTQ law

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a Mississippi law that would let businesses and government workers refuse service to LGBTQ people if they had a religious objection. Bloomberg reported that the court turned away two appeals by state residents and organizations that contended the measure violates the Constitution. A federal appeals court said the opponents hadn’t suffered any injury that would let them press their claims in court. According to The Hill, the court’s refusal to hear the case leaves intact the law, known as H.B. 1523, that says “the state government will not take any discriminatory action against persons who don’t believe in same-sex marriage, homosexuality and transgenderism.” “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision today leaves LGBT people in Mississippi in the crosshairs of hate and humiliation, delaying justice and equality,” said Beth Littrell of Lambda Legal told NBC OUT.